Name: Dennis Zembala
U-M Affiliation: Alumni

Where do you work?

Private Museum Consultant

When did you serve in the Peace Corps?


Where did you serve (which country/countries)?


What were your main responsibilities as a volunteer?

I served in a Tuberculosis control program in the Bolivian highlands, Yungas Region. I tested and diagnosed over 1000 persons and managed about 100 active cases of TB. In addition, I did public health education working with the Bolivian Ministry of Public Health.

Is there a specific person (or persons) who made a strong impression on you during that time?

I woould say that the local doctor, Armando Barriosmade a great impression on me through his dedication and commitment to the local people. He was only there for a year on his mandated "ano de provincia" but was a real humanitarian and a compassionate professional committed to helping the least fortunate patients as well as the middle class.

What was one of the most memorable moments you had as a volunteer?

I helped support a triage effort when a truckload of injured were brought to the hospital after having plummeted 1000 feet or more from the "Highway of Death", the road from LaPaz to my town.

In what ways did your Peace Corps experience affect your life and/or career decisions?

It introduced me to cultural diversity and heightened my awareness of the universal traits of humanity. I became interested in cultural studies and got my doctoral degree in American Studies when I returned to the USA.

In what ways did your U-M education, both inside and outside the classroom, prepare you for your Peace Corps experience?

I was amazed at the number of student organizations and the leadership of students who really believed they could make the world a better place. I was there when the Student Movement was getting into full swing. Tom Hayden, Sharon jeffries and others started the Students for a Democratic Society, civil rights volunteers were leaving for Selma and others were engaged in change. President Kennedy's speech at the Michigan Union fired my imagination.

What advice would you give to others who are contemplating going into the Peace Corps?

It is a great opportunity to establish friendship with people of different cultures, but you will find that there are common grounds between individuals that obscure the differences between cultures.

What is the value gained from the Peace Corps experience?

The opportunity to serve others and demonstrate the generosity inherent in a free society where volunteerism is prized.

What lessons did you learn in the Peace Corps that you carry with you today?

Volunteerism is the ultimate demonstration of freedom.

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