Savanna Toure ’21 becomes first Lafayette student to win Truman Scholarship

Savanna Toure ’21 recently studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa with funding from the Goldwater Scholarship where she volunteered with SHAWCO, helping to combat health inequality. (Photo Courtesy of Savanna Toure ’21)

Savanna Toure’s goals of studying medicine and doing biomedical research after Lafayette are now even more attainable after receiving both the Goldwater Scholarship and Truman Scholarship, two notable and selective awards given out at the national level. Toure ’21 is the first student at Lafayette to receive the Truman Scholarship.

Toure admitted she was not initially planning on applying for the Truman Scholarship due to its prestigious reputation. The scholarship, which was awarded to 62 students out of 773 applications this year, is a graduate fellowship in the US for those pursing careers as public service leaders.

Toure, a neuroscience major, spent the first part of this semester studying abroad and doing research in Cape Town, South Africa, before having to return home early due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Her time in South Africa was funded through her Goldwater Scholarship, an award given to college sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering.

While in Cape Town, Toure worked closely with SHAWCO (Students’ Health and Welfare Centers Organization) to combat healthcare inequality for communities in need. This experience is just one of her many contributions to combat healthcare inequality.

Throughout her high school and college career, Toure has had several internships, giving her experience in reproductive epidemiology and  biostatistics and practice in researching healthcare inequality. She interned at the college with former Dean of Students Christopher Hunt, the George Washington University reproductive epidemiology laboratory, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

“I wanted to alleviate health inequality…I tried to search out for programs and for people that talked about the science part but also the societal factor,” Toure said.

Toure explained that she wanted to work in public policy and underserved communities specifically working to improve clinical experiences of black women in under-served communities.

Through these experiences, Toure has also completed virus and cancer research. In 2017, she helped research the 2014-2016 outbreak of Ebola and malaria and worked to determine mortality within the West African region, taking a “biostatistical approach to determine whether the treatments were bad or good,”  Toure explained.

This experience, she added, gives her a unique insight on coronavirus because she knows about the patterns in which viruses act. From a sociological standpoint, Toure also noted how the virus has exposed systemic racism in the healthcare system driven by capitalism and populism.

“Healthcare profits off of minorities and the disabled. There should be free healthcare for everyone in my book,” Toure said.

On campus, Toure, along with being an EXCEL research scholar and a Posse Scholar, serves as a resident advisor, a sexual assault peer educator, and a Kaleidoscope social justice advocator.

The Truman Scholarship awards scholars like Toure $30,000 toward any graduate school. However, she noted that “It’s not about the money spent. It’s about doing what you love.”

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