Westmont Magazine From the Westmont Pool to Uganda, This Student Finds Ways to Serve Others

by Sharon Savely Odegaard

The world of medicine fascinates Morgan Bienias ’23, tying together her past, present and future. She interned at a Ugandan clinic and now works as a pharmacy technician at a local CVS. She graduates in May with a degree in biology and plans to go to school to become a physician assistant.

Morgan Bienias

Morgan ventured to Uganda in fall 2022 with Westmont’s Global Health program and studied at Uganda Christian University Mukono. Just she and one other student participated, a testament to her adventurous spirit. Along with taking health-related classes, she interned in the clinic at Noah’s Ark Children’s Ministry. Located at the end of an unpaved road, the clinic serves those who live on the grounds of Noah’s Ark as well as people in the surrounding areas. Patients get treated for range of issues, such as malaria, typhoid, flu, minor injuries and malnutrition.

During her shifts at the clinic, Morgan shadowed doctors. She offered her own assessments and diagnoses as part of her training. For example, youngsters with fever, upset stomach and no appetite could have malaria and need a blood test. She also dispensed drugs at the pharmacy. “I got to participate in a birth,” she says. “Midwives, on call 24 hours a day, live on the site. What a thrill to be in the room when this baby made his entrance into the world.”

Morgan ate rice and beans for lunch and dinner every day, just like the Ugandans. They also served matoke, a type of fruit that’s like a banana. “I was not a huge fan,” she says. She preferred the fruit from stands along the road into town. Local families may lack access to a variety of foods and may be unable to afford anything beyond the basics. “Malnutrition is rampant,” she says.

Students at Uganda Christian University

Living in a dormitory with her Ugandan roommate at the large university enhanced her experience — she and Macrina learned about cultural differences. “She liked to sleep with the light on,” Morgan says. “And swimming was strange to Ugandans. I went to swim at a hotel with a pool. Many Ugandans don’t swim for recreation and didn’t understand why I do.”

A champion swimmer at Westmont, Morgan competes with the Warriors and qualified for 2023 Nationals, held in Columbus, Georgia, in the 500-meter freestyle and the 200-meter backstroke. She credits her coaches, Gregg Wilson and Jill Jones Lin, for reviving her interest in swimming. “Gregg Wilson showed up every day for me,” she says. “He helped me improve my stroke, and he built my confidence in myself.”

She earned NAIA All-American honors as a sophomore and a junior, finishing fifth in the 1,650-yard freestyle at the 2022 Nationals. She holds numerous Warrior records in this new sport at Westmont.

Morgan also received the annual Golden Eagle Award in 2021, given to a top scholar-athlete from each Warrior team. It acknowledges hardworking competitors who excel in scholarly learning. Each recipient speaks briefly, and Morgan paid tribute to her coaches and spoke of her joy in swimming with her teammates.

Even though the season has ended and she graduates soon, Morgan continues to show up at practices. “I go to encourage those who are still swimming, who will be coming back to Westmont next year,” she says. “I may or may not get in the pool. But I’m there for them.”

From being one of 10 Americans studying at a Ugandan university of 10,000 students to swimming in the Nationals to tackling a new job in a pharmacy, Morgan takes on life’s challenges.