Blog

Primary and Community-Engaged Healthcare at the Frontline of Medicine

 

Image result for shailendra prasadDr. Prasad is the kind of doctor you want treating your family and community.

His story began in South India. In 1992, there was a cholera epidemic in the entire district but no one died from the infectious water-borne disease. This was due to the fact that for the past three years, the community had been talking about and working towards water hygiene. Prevention, according to Dr. Prasad, is not very “sexy”. It does not require any high tech magic-bullet solutions. In this community, the life-or-death intervention was finding where people collect water and wash their clothes.

“What is primary care?” Dr. Prasad asked us, and we gave the usual responses: treating basic health issues, providing vaccinations and treating families and communities. He introduced us to the model of the “five C’s” of primary care: first contact, continuity, comprehensive, coordination, and community. Primary care professionals are at the frontline of medicine. They are often the first person both the sick and the well encounter, and as we all know, first impressions are very important. The patient’s first interaction with a physician can determine their future relationship with the whole field of medicine. If patients feel misunderstood, disrespected or fearful, they will be much less likely to come back for future checkups or to seek care for serious health conditions. This is where continuity comes into play. Primary physicians are there for the long term – for the vaccinations, height measurements, yearly checkups, sexual health education, chronic diseases and beyond. Our bodies exist in and interact with our social worlds. Only physicians who know who you are, not only your family history but your healthy and unhealthy habits and all the social determinants that affect your unique health and body, are equipped to treat you with the dignity and knowledge that all people deserve. Comprehensive and coordinated health care requires this contextual understanding, so that diabetics, for example, not only receive a prescription for medicine, but are also referred to a nutritionist, psychiatrist, shelter, or any necessary financial resources. The final “C”, community, is how individual health becomes part of a greater and healthier whole. As the final piece of the puzzle, this is where long-term changes in overall health can occur.

The current U.S. healthcare system excels at treating illness. Promoting wellness, on the other hand, is not a political or financial priority. Following the Neo-Darwin organism theory, interventions only occur after the absence of health and manifestation of illness. The success of a system based on curing rather than preventing is much easier to quantify and evaluate, but at what cost (pun intended)? Hospitals and clinics lack the metrics to determine wellness and evaluate preventative measures. Dr. Prasad, however, has his own “grand slam” metrics: questions like, “how are you doing today?” “how are things with your family?” and “do you feel like you are being taken care of here?”

Dr. Prasad showed us a quote: “Our concept of health is to make social change”. His advice? Get involved in family medicine. Following that statement, he told us he may or may not be biased on the matter.

An innovator in primary care, Dr. Prasad is a practicing physician and lecturer working at the intersections of medicine and public health, including training providers on issues of racism and inequality, improving quality of healthcare in rural areas, and conceptualizing ways that medicine can address wider social determinants of health—issues that can only be addressed outside the clinic.

Share and Enjoy:
  • email
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

Mabie Fellowship Funds Archit Baskaran’s Research on LGBT+ Health Care in Nepal

Archit Baskaran, a recipient of the John and Martha Mabie Fellowship for Public Health Research, spent his summer researching the experiences of LGBT+ patients in Nepal. Archit says he ultimately wants to turn this research into a book and continue with this research as a career.

Tell us about your project. How did you decide to study this topic?unnamed

I was investigating Blue Diamond Society in Nepal and their hospice program for LGBTQ+ people. I was trying to elicit illness narratives from people who were receiving care, either hospice or palliative. I was also trying to figure out what types of programs they were running and the types of care they were providing. A lot of people in Nepal end up receiving quality care and feel comfortable opening up about their identities and problems.

I think it’s my fascination with death and mortality that sparked my interest in this topic. One of my close friends and debate coach passed away when I was a senior in high school. That really took a huge toll on me but it also catalyzed my interest in the medical maladies at the end of life. When I applied to college, my essay was about death and the ethics of mortality and how doctors treat patients in their last days.

Then I started reading about it. Atul Gawande, one of my role models, wrote a book called Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End investigating a lot of these topics. So I sent him an email about my interest and how I had this idea. I didn’t think he would reply but he ended up responding. I still remember, he responded January 3rd of this year. I knew at that point that I should definitely go for this. His email really gave me a lot of motivation. Eventually, what started as a Circumnavigator proposal got narrowed down and I decided to focus on Nepal. What they manage to do in Nepal is revolutionary—nobody has been able to do what they’re doing there, even in America I think.

Then I started my literature review and read over three hundred articles on whatever I could find. There was a meta-analysis that said there was something like twelve studies on this topic in the world. I tried looking up as many of those as I could and they even said: we need more data. For example, nobody has studied hospice care for trans people; it’s mostly been on gay and lesbian people and in America. So there was a huge knowledge gap.

unnamed-2How did your experience on the ground vary from your expectations?

The biggest thing that I think everybody knows about research is that there are so many unexpected variables that you cannot control for until you are there. To be honest, the organization is underfunded. It doesn’t have a lot of staff. It doesn’t really have a functioning website with enough details; it doesn’t even mention the hospice care program on the website. So finding out information was very difficult until I actually landed. The only way I could communicate with them was through email since it was a logistical hassle to try to call them and figure things out. Once I landed there, the biggest thing I noticed was that the hospice care program is more than just a hospice care program. It is a homeless shelter, it is a palliative care facility, it was a temporary resting place for children or old people, and it was also partly an orphanage. It was run by significantly fewer people than I thought. They didn’t have all the equipment that you would see in a Western-scale hospice facility like tracheotomy equipment. It was a very old building. All of these things were very shocking to me.

At that point, my research, which was just centered on end of life care, expanded in scope. I had to now talk about care in general. Some of the patients I interviewed were nearing the end of life but none of them were specifically in their last days, presumably. Two or three people I interviewed reported getting ill four to five times a month. The doctors I spoke to called it terminal HIV. Most of the narratives I elicited out of people at the end of life came from the people who cared for them and eventually saw them pass. They told me the entire life stories of those people and what happened to them from the day that they came in to the day that they died.

The biggest thing for me was arriving there and realizing that what I wanted exactly was not going to play out. It ended up being even better than I expected because once I got there, this health care program was doing more than giving hospice care to people, which allowed me to expand my research hypothesis. A lot of what I learned could even point to potential solutions for people in the West. Something I didn’t really realize going in was that we have a lot to learn.

What was your most meaningful experience abroad, and what did it teach you?unnamed-3

There was one hidden trans woman that I met in an outskirt village from the main city. It was in a remote area with high poverty rates. The compound where we were sitting was constructed from cow feces; it was just a very rotten environment that they were living in. In that environment, this woman was a farmer, still hidden obviously, and she was forcibly married by her family. She opened up about her whole life. Anything you could imagine that could possibly wrong in someone’s life had gone wrong in her life. It was a very saddening interview and at the end of the interview I asked if she could describe just one moment in her life when she experienced happiness. She said, “no, I can’t describe a moment where I felt happy.” She was also, based on the way she described her illness, nearing her end. When I left that area, I knew that I probably wouldn’t see her again. I didn’t have that same emotional feeling with a lot of others because I always said I was going to keep my distance but I really couldn’t with that one.

At the very end she said, “in my last days, if I could, I would try to buy a small shirt for my daughter but I can’t afford it.” I learned a lot from her, because she spoke about all of the things that everyone else had spoken about and more. She was one person telling me everything that was wrong with the system in both a social and institutional sense. I got a lot of narrative from that especially.

What do you plan to do with this research moving forward?

I think that experience is what inspired my goal afterwards. Initially when I was going in, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with all of this. I knew I wanted to approach somebody and analyze it and maybe work towards a study of sorts. But that interview in particular changed my outlook. Instead of only restricting it to academia, I kind of wanted a general readership for a lot of this. I mean people suffer around the world but people don’t even know about what this organization has been doing or even that fact that there is something called LGBTQI hospice care. Then the idea for a book came in and that’s what I am talking to Professor Locke about. That’s the long-term goal right now. I started writing and I don’t know if it will go anywhere.

Basically I want to empower their voices by telling their stories through their words. It will be their words. If it’s translated into English it’s not a hundred percent but it conveys their meaning to the best possible ability.

How has your summer experience impacted your future goals and interests at Northwestern or after?

I am going to start medical school next year. Once I am there, this is what I’m planning on doing—longitudinal research. I think this is what I want to do with my life.

Also, I ended applying to Fulbright by taking a segment of this and expanding upon it. I chose to write a proposal about transgender people and their health disparities both in palliative and hospice care. My data did not uncover too much on this topic and there’s a lot to be researched there.

The second short-term thing was that I was able to meet the hospice care professor at Feinberg. He has agreed to be a mentor for this project. We’re going to analyze the transcripts and everything together, provided I get my IRB approval for that.

Do you have any advice for students wishing to conduct research in an unfamiliar location?

I think cultural competency is of prime importance. It’s very easy growing up in a Western society, America specifically, going to Northwestern, to embrace a neo-colonial mindset of the savior complex. Their culture in many ways is rich and it adds to our knowledge. I think embracing the growth mindset instead of the helping mindset is hugely important. I have to admit that when this first came up, I was in this paradigm of I want to go to developing countries and help people there. Especially Nepal shows me how much we lag in even just a general understanding of rights and how we can provide for people who are marginalized. I think that’s the biggest thing. And on that note, the cultural competency thing is important. Before going into these places, it’s vital that people at least try to understand what they’re getting themselves into and not be that dumb tourist who goes in very uninformed and ends up offending somebody.

Lastly, when you are there, try to expose yourself as much as you can to different events and people. I would regularly try meeting people on the weekends that I didn’t really know. I would spend personal time with the people in the organization outside the research time, which is why I think the research was so successful. Especially as a foreigner, there is a weird dynamic of, I’m the researcher and you’re the research subject. But I used to go out with them to the tourist district and we would go shopping together, watch concerts together, I would just go with them to hang out. And there would be days I didn’t do anything for the research but would just go to spend time with them. Building those relationships definitely helped me surpass my research goals in the end.

Share and Enjoy:
  • email
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

Radulovacki Research Fellow Subin Hwang Investigates Refugee Health Care in Germany

Subin Hwang was one of the recipients of the Radulovacki Global Health Research Fellowships. She spent her summer in Berlin, Germany studying health care for refugees. This was the second consecutive summer that Subin has spent working with refugees and she hopes to one day work with marginalized populations as a doctor.

Tell us about your project.unnamed

I was in Berlin studying refugee health, the gaps in medical care, and barriers to accessibility. I was at a hospital where they allowed me to shadow their doctors and all of the different outpatient clinics they had for refugees specifically. On a daily basis I was shadowing, and towards the end I conducted a lot of interviews with the doctors, nurses, and interpreters. I also administered surveys to some of the refugees who were coming through the clinic.

How did you decide to study this topic?

I worked with refugees last summer in a nonprofit and I was helping them settle into America with social security, health care, employment—everything you would need to be equipped in a new country. That experience was really rewarding and something that I really enjoyed doing. Right after I finished that internship, there was something coined the “refugee crisis” all over the news. Many refugees had crossed the border into Europe, fleeing their war torn countries. That got me interested because I had just been working with refugees and had heard some of their stories. It was something I was really passionate about so I wanted to see how they were doing it Europe since their system is very different from ours, particularly the health care. I wanted to investigate how their system was handling the influx, what successes they were having, and how they were handling the challenges they were facing.

unnamed-3How did your experience on the ground vary from your expectations?

I expected it to be a lot like America since that was the only exposure I previously had to refugee healthcare. But it was a lot better than I had expected. For one, they had outpatient clinics staffed with doctors and nurses instead of just pushing them in with other low-income families or other marginalized groups. They also had a very efficient system.

In terms of my research project, I was expecting to work more with policy makers and overhead management but I was more on the ground with the doctors and nurses. Although it was different, it was still a very good experience and I got to see the difficulties at the point of service, which was very eye-opening.

What was your most meaningful experience abroad, and what did it teach you?

While I was immersed in my research, I also made it a point to engage with the community outside of the clinic. I attended a lot of events and there was one poetry event for refugees who wanted to share their poetry. It was incredible. I was so moved and everyone in the room was crying. It was a good way to humanize the population because I saw them in such huge numbers through the clinic. The way Germans do things is super efficient so tons of people come through very quickly. It’s good since more people can get what they need and be seen but I didn’t get that emotional component as much. So this event was a nice way to hear their stories since I think sometimes you lose sight of that when you’re working at such a quick pace.

What was the most challenging moment or aspect, and how did you cope?unnamed-1

There were moments when I didn’t speak the language or have all the information I needed or there was nothing I could do. It was challenging to see the systemic issues still at play that I, as a single person, could do nothing to change. It was pretty difficult seeing that on an everyday basis but there are people who are acting to change that.

Did you encounter any cultural differences that required getting used to?

A ton. With the doctors and nurses, I think it’s a German cultural thing to not be very personal. You don’t really talk about your life or your weekend. That was something I had to get used to. There it’s very much the mindset of: we work, we go home and we keep our personal lives separate.

With the female refugees, especially in Muslim cultures, their voices aren’t as valued as the men sometimes. Seeing that in a health care setting was disheartening because they may have things they want to talk about but they aren’t allowed to or they silence themselves. That was a different cultural barrier that I noticed.

Has your summer experience impacted your future goals and interests at Northwestern or after?

My summer at the nonprofit and this past summer doing research definitely solidified my desire to work with marginalized populations whether it’s refugees or immigrants or low-income families. More than anything this summer made that passion concrete. My future goal is to be a doctor but that is very far away. Having these experiences where I am actually interacting with people makes more of an impact than working with numbers, for example. I really appreciate the opportunity and it’s definitely something that will impact my future goals.

unnamed-2Do you have any advice for students wishing to conduct research in an unfamiliar location?

I think people shy away from doing anything abroad or anything away from a group of friends. It differs for each person—some people are very comfortable with that while others aren’t. I personally wasn’t that comfortable with it but I put myself out there and it was work that I really wanted to learn about. So I think if you are driven by a topic you are passionate about, the location shouldn’t be that big of a factor. College is the time to take advantage of those opportunities. I don’t know when else I would spend a summer in Berlin. Use the opportunities that Northwestern offers you to really expand upon what you are passionate about.

What do you do with this work? What are your next steps?

I will be using this research for my honors thesis. I will be analyzing the data further and I will be relaying all the key findings to my supervisor at the hospital. He will be taking all the findings and will take them into account for their policy changes as well. So it is not only research that will be beneficial for my learning experience but it will also hopefully affect larger populations and policies.

Share and Enjoy:
  • email
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

Mabie Fellow Jason Chen Spends Summer Interning at South African Nonprofit Agency

Jason Chen was one of three recipients of the John and Martha Mabie Fellowship for Public Health Research this year. He spent his summer interning at Genesis, a health and youth focused nonprofit in South Africa.

img_4157Tell us about your project.

I had been studying with the IPD program in Stellenbosch, South Africa during spring quarter and wanted to stay the summer and work. So I was connected to this organization named Genesis and it’s associated with a church called Norwegian’s Settlers Church. They started this organization 15 years ago and started out as a medical facility during the beginning of the AIDS Crisis. It was kind of a place where people could go and die with dignity since there were no therapies or anything. This organization then expanded to do other things in the community like youth projects. Now it has grown to this huge organization and has a medical facility on campus, which is kind of like a rehabilitation center so that patients who need more time to recover can go and stay there until they’re healthy enough to go home to their families. Also on their campus is a youth center that a couple of different organizations have offices in as well as their own. They work in a couple of different communities locally, doing camps youth projects, and after school programs as well as a music academy.

I was living at the church and splitting my time between working with the nurses at the medical facility and some youth group projects. Interestingly I’m not Christian (I am Jewish) so it was super interesting living at a church but it did not negatively affect my experience at all.

What were your responsibilities for this internship?

With the nurses, I was pretty much doing everything they were doing. I wasn’t doing medical tasks; I was just caring for patients—changing them, cleaning them, changing beds, helping to feed them, as well as physical and occupational therapy. There were no doctors on site, just the nurses, so I helped check up on the patients.

I did get involved with the music facility a little bit and helped put on a concert that the kids put on for the community. It was also their holiday break for three weeks. So one week was a camp that we ran. There was also an afterschool program and I went to a high school and taught life skills. Life skills is a class in South Africa where they teach them values and self esteem, kind of like a health class but more socially driven. We also talked about HIV with them. It was really great over all. The kids in these communities are dealing with every problem you could possibly think of. Like in one community, the entire generation of parents is gone. The majority of the kids are orphans raised by their grandparents because HIV just wiped out all of them. Which is just crazy to think about. We tried to be there for them and be mentors for them.

But the other communities where HIV didn’t hit as hard, they’re dealing with rape, child abuse, and drinking and drug problems. Like when some of these parents come home at night, drunk and high, they beat their children. When the kids don’t want to stay home, they get beaten more for not staying home. They’re being taught all these really awful values. They’re going to stay in the cycle of poverty and at the bottom of the ladder because the institutionalized racism in South Africa. You have to motivate them to be extraordinary or they are just going to stay poor in this community. You can just instill good values and try to motivate them to want to do something with their lives.

How did you find this internship?

Networking. My uncle lives in Evanston and his daughter had an au pair who lived with them for two years. I got to know her and she’s South African and this is her father’s organization. So she grew up at this church and her father’s the pastor who organizes this.

How did your expectations compare to your actual experiences on the ground?

Regarding HIV specifically, there are these drugs if you take them daily, you’ll live and they’re being provided free by the government. So we all think the problem is providing access to these drugs but in this community there is access to these drugs and some people are still not taking them. They’re being told, “you need to take these to save your life,” and for every reason you can think of, some people are not taking them and they’re dying. That’s just something that you don’t really hear about here.

Also, the institutionalized racism. Apartheid ended 22 years ago now and the area that we were staying in when we were studying in Stellenbosch is the most white, racist part of South Africa now. There is definitely still blatant racism there and it very hard to see.

13615066_509568082566198_8642117469836073825_nHow do you think your experiences in South Africa have impacted your future goals and interests?

I hope to go into medicine. I am going to take a year off and then try to go to medical school. I hope to get a Masters in Public Health while I get a Medical Degree. I’m also studying environmental science now and looking at the health aspect of environmental change. I think that during early college and high school, many people just think of becoming a surgeon and starting a practice. I definitely want to go beyond that and do more good through public health work. I also want to do more work abroad now.

Can you think of one moment that epitomizes your whole summer?

The most profound experience I had was getting to know one of the patients at the medical facility. This guy came in after a bike accident. He was sitting at the light and someone just hit him. He went into a coma and came out of it but was absolutely frozen in bed. He couldn’t really move his muscles or make any facial expressions. He could kind of, without moving his lips, mumble a little bit and say my name. His hands would shake and the nurses are always pretty busy and they deal with so much death all of the time that they kind of become accustomed to not becoming close to the patients. But I would go and hold his hands until they would stop shaking and became pretty close with this patient. Two to three weeks went by and he was getting worse. I thought he would probably die over the weekend. I left work Friday and when I came back Tuesday he had gotten new antibiotics and was talking and moving. By that Wednesday he was in a wheelchair, moving himself around, and I was having full conversations with him. It was just a crazy, moving experience.

So I took two things from that. One, I am not a very religious person but they do use faith in this facility a lot since it’s at a church. A lot of people in South Africa are very religious. Regardless of if I think it works or not, faith does seem to be helping the healing process for a lot of these patients. That was very eye opening to me. I don’t necessarily have to believe it but if it’s working well for others I may as well help with it. Second, through my kindness and the nurses’ kindness he was then inspired to come back and volunteer with the church once he’s healthy.

 img_4045 Do you have any advice for other students who want to intern abroad or work at a nonprofit abroad?

I ran into a lot of roadblocks with visas. While I was here doing research, I couldn’t figure out if I could get a visa and was getting a lot of push back from the administration. But I was pretty determined to stay over the summer and do it. I went to South Africa not totally sure if I would be able to stay but I figured out the system and it ended up working out. So don’t just let people tell you that you can’t do something. If you want to do it, really push it and try to weasel your way through things. It might work out!

 

 

Share and Enjoy:
  • email
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

Working to Promote Maternal Health in Rural Kenya: An Alumna Interview with Gabriella DelHoyo (WCAS 2012)

Name: Gabriella DelHoyo (WCAS 2012)

Major: Political Science

Minor: Global Health Studies

Gabriella DelHoyo graduated in 2012 with a Political Science major and Global Health Studies minor. For the past year and a half, Gabriella has been working with the 2020 Microclinic Initiative to improve maternal health in rural Kenya.

What else were you involved in while you were at NU?

The biggest thing I was involved in at NU was the Living Wage Campaign. It was really exciting, a lot of work, and my involvement was definitely a reflection of my interest in social justice and making an impact in our community. It was a student-run campaign to gain living wages for dining hall employees, some of whom had worked at Northwestern for 15 or 20 years, yet were still not receiving living wages. Ultimately the campaign won the wages, and I’m so grateful I got to be a part of it!

gabriella-delhoyoWhat did you do after graduation?

To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do after college, so I saved some money and went on a trip through Europe for a few months with a good friend. After that, I came back to Los Angeles and was offered an opportunity to work for a wealth management company. I knew it wasn’t what I ultimately wanted to do, but I took the opportunity to gain experience and worked there for almost two years. I realized pretty quickly I wasn’t happy doing something that didn’t work to improve people’s health and well-being, so I decided to explore the reasons I had worked on a global health minor in college, and I started looking for work with nonprofits and for-profits with a social impact. I came across a job opening with 2020 Microclinic Initiative through an NU job listserv because the executive director of the organization is a Northwestern alumna as well. I was really excited to work with a fellow Wildcat and to gain experience in international development work.

Could you describe 2020 Microclinic’s mission and work in your own words?

Our mission is to make pregnancy and childbirth safe for women in medically underserved communities. Fifty percent of maternal deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa and almost all of these deaths are preventable. Dr. Moka Lantum, the founder of our organization, began his work in Kenya because the country has a great desire and will to improve maternal health. There’s a modest infrastructure of medical clinics throughout rural Kenya with medically-trained healthcare workers, but Dr. Moka saw that almost no women were giving birth in them or seeking care. Most women in these communities give birth in overcrowded hospitals or at home in unsafe conditions and without a medical professional present. Dr. Moka began reaching out to women and healthcare workers to find out the reasons why mothers weren’t delivering in clinics and found many contributing factors, one huge factor being a lack of access to transportation- meaning women have to travel miles on foot to get to a clinic. However, the most surprising reason he heard again and again was that women didn’t have clothes for their babies and were embarrassed to leave the clinic after birth with an unclothed baby. After hearing this, Dr. Moka began testing the idea of offering baby clothes to women who came into clinics for prenatal care, delivery, and postnatal care. Women quickly began coming in by the dozens, and clinics saw an increase of as much as 300% more deliveries when baby clothes were offered. Dr. Moka then began training women in Kenya to sew t-shirts into baby clothes, providing them with a marketable skill and recycling t-shirts from the US in the process. Today, the program exists in seven clinics, offering baby clothes and safe healthcare to thousands of women.874ab7_7e9b9f6936894a2cb1ca20ecaeedb49d

In addition to the baby clothing incentive, we offer emergency transportation services to women with high-risk traits, and we offer birth preparation and infant care training for all women in our program. This last element is the educational part of our program, which is actually evolving pretty quickly right now. Before, we offered women educational classes, but we recently turned those classes into an original maternal health card game, which has been something I’ve been especially proud to be a part of. The game teaches women the importance of coming into the clinic to seek care before, during and after birth. It also teaches them critical danger signs to look for and what to do about them. Ultimately, the game helps women view health as a community, rather than individually, so that we raise awareness and provide education for the community as a whole.

Lastly, we run two other programs: A medical residency program and an e-health data collection program. The residency program provides an important exchange of knowledge between US residents and Kenyan healthcare workers, as well as improves the healthcare practices serving families in the communities where we work. The e-health program works to improve data collection and organization in rural Kenya.

What is your position within 2020 Microclinic? What are your day to day responsibilities within this role?

I work with the Executive Director here in Los Angeles as the Development Associate, and, as the only US employee, I’ve been lucky to gain experience in so many different aspects of nonprofit work. I manage all of our donor and volunteer engagement, as well as maintain our donor database. I coordinate volunteer events, facilitate t-shirt drives, and design campaigns to raise awareness. I write and send all of our newsletters and correspondences. This year I designed a new website for the organization from scratch, which was really interesting, and I continue to develop our social media presence. I assist our Kenyan team with whatever support they need to maintain and improve our expanding baby clothing production and incentive program. I help organize and maintain accurate programmatic data, as well as assist in logistics. I’ve also supported the expansion of our medical residency program. I love the work I get to do most directly related to the program, so developing the maternal health card game has definitely been my favorite work in the past year.

What would you say is the most challenging aspect of your job?

First, I think learning to juggle a lot of different kinds of tasks and wear different hats is challenging, but very important in any job. Second, I would say that in this kind of international work, there can be some disappointment and frustration when projects don’t work out or there are time differences and communication issues or stalled projects. But I think those issues are manageable and pretty common in this kind of work.

What is your favorite part of this job or field?

It’s a wonderful feeling to see a positive outcome from the work we’re doing. It really captures the whole mentality behind everything you learn in the Global Health Studies program at NU in terms of being a global citizen and feeling connected to other people even though you haven’t gotten to meet them. For example, when I saw the pictures of mothers in Kenya playing our maternal health game with the trial cards I had printed here in LA, it was an incredible and awesome sensation. It’s what makes all the challenges worth it.

What role do you think your Global Health Studies courses at Northwestern are playing in the work you are doing now?

copy_of_baby_joyHonestly, Northwestern provides an incredible education, and I really realized that after college. Northwestern teaches you to be a good critical thinker and to explore any issue or idea in a multidisciplinary way. The most important thing that the global health program teaches you is to look at international development in a holistic way and to look for sustainable solutions that must be developed based on individual communities and real people’s day to day experiences. The global health program teaches students how to understand and explore the challenges people face in communities that are very different from what they know. I think the most important thing I learned is that you can’t go into someone else’s community and expect to bring a solution to them from an outside perspective. You have to learn about the people you want to help, and you have to learn with them. You have to try to understand how they see the world, and you have to learn how to work with them to figure out the best and most sustainable solutions. That’s part of the reason why this organization and its founder have been very inspiring to me.

Where did you study abroad? How do you think it influenced you and where you are now?

I went to Santiago, Chile. We learned about their public-private healthcare system, and we got to assist local research projects. I got to do mine in a middle school, which was really fun and definitely my favorite part of the program.

Do you have any advice or suggestions for current global health undergrads on how to get involved or prepare themselves for this type of work?

Being in college is the best time to explore different professional interests you might have. It’s a great time to try out different classes or internships for a few months at a time. If I could go back I would do much more exploring. Also, Evanston is such a great community and there is so much you can do there to learn about community development. No matter where you are, there is always so much to do in your own community, and doing so will always teach you more about yourself and what you want to do.

Do you have any advice or suggestions for current global health undergrads on choosing a career path in global health?

I think it can be overwhelming to know there are so many possibilities. Don’t be afraid to try something. If in six months you want to try a different aspect of global health or want to try something completely different, go with it!

Share and Enjoy:
  • email
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks