A Pre-Health Student Draws on His Rural Roots

Ramsey Ash '24
A photo of Ramesy Ash '24 in Dunk's Sports Grill

"To my friends back home from smaller surrounding towns, I'm very much a city kid," reflects Ramsey Ash '24, whose hometown of 45,000 sits near West Virginia's border with Ohio. "But when I arrived at Dartmouth and met people who are actually city
kids—from places like New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Boston—I thought, 'Oh, wait a second. Maybe I'm not as much of a city kid as I thought.' Within the U.S. or even a global context, I definitely grew up in a rural place."

Ramsey graduated from high school at age 16 and arrived at Dartmouth ready to study engineering. His first-year seminar—The Values of Medicine, taught by renowned medical anthropologist Sienna Craig—changed everything. "She taught us how the concept of medicine has varied widely over time and place, especially from a cross-cultural perspective," Ramsey says. "I learned that the cultures you exist in, the identities that you hold, the things you experience impact your health in very real ways. I became infatuated with the humanistic approach to medicine as it relates to pressing health challenges. That class opened my eyes to the possibility of becoming a doctor."

In his sophomore year, Ramsey secured funding from the Undergraduate Research Assistantships at Dartmouth program to study health care network vulnerabilities with Dr. Erika Moen at Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine. A year later, Dartmouth's Dickey Center for International Understanding connected Ramsey to a global health internship in Hanoi, Vietnam. There, he studied how cross-cultural differences can affect the quality of eldercare. "It's the norm in the U.S. to hire trained caregivers for senior citizens, but in Vietnam, where intergenerational living situations are common, that's rather unheard of," Ramsey explains. "In fact, my research showed that medically trained individuals do not provide the same level of care as family members in the Vietnamese context."

Equally important to Ramsey, who is the son of musicians and who plays the clarinet himself, are his musical ambitions. At the encouragement of senior lecturer Jan Halloran, Ramsey auditioned for the wind ensemble, founded a clarinet choir, and joined the music department's Foreign Study Program in London during his sophomore spring. He also declared a second major in music. "Forming a community around music was a transformative experience for me in terms of thinking about the ways that music can positively impact individual health, particularly mental health," he says.

Drawing on his hometown roots, Ramsey is writing his senior thesis on vaccine hesitancy in rural areas. He encourages other college-bound students from rural backgrounds to embrace that as a defining feature of their identity. "Colleges are interested in your story, and that includes the answer to 'What is the place you grew up like?' If you're a rural student and that's your story, tell it. Your experiences are interesting, different, and important."


Photograph by Don Hamerman, at Dunk's Sports Grill in Hanover, where Ramsey works as a server

An image of the cover of the April 2024 issue of 3D Magazine
3D Magazine No. 17
April 2024
Joanna Jou '26
Point of View
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