Last week, the Northwestern Alumni Association in conjunction with IPD & Global Health Studies presented “Campus Without Quizzes: A Campus-Wide Internationalization Strategy.” To demonstrate the commitment of Global Health Studies to internationalization, IPD brought back five extraordinarily successful young alumni to speak on their professional experience since graduation.
Maggie Schmitt, Program Officer of the Department of Population and Family Health at Columbia University, spoke of her previous experience working in Ghana and Tanzania on global health programming as part of her Master’s program. Brent Swails, CNN Producer, recapped his relocation from Brazil to South Africa to China to cover fascinating topics such as human trafficking and HIV/AIDs. Sophie Miller, Health Policy Senior Consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton, reflected on her post-graduate work in D.C. and subsequent Master’s in Public Health degree at Harvard University. She now has a fulfilling career in domestic health policy. Maya Ragavan, medical student at Feinberg, discussed her experiences pursuing a Fulbright scholarship during her medical studies, exploring the sobering topic of intimate partner violence in Udaipur, India. Finally, Alex Lofton, Advisor for NationalField and GOTV Advisor for Organizing for America, brought to light his efforts advocating for ObamaCare as a part of his work and political activism.
Sitting in the audience, I was considering each of these alumni’s paths and mentally noted how different they all were. How fascinating is it that each of these alumni are doing such significant work in the field while pursuing such diverse and unique careers? Maggie and Sophie chose to study public health formally in graduate school. Maya opted for medical school. Brent and Alex went in completely different directions; Brent choosing journalism, and Alex choosing political activism and entrepreneurship. In my opinion, each of these panelists is a public health official if not a global health official.
It appears that choosing graduate education directly in a health related field is just as beneficial as pursuing an alternate field with public health applications. So, do whatever makes you tick! On a personal note, the most inspirational professor I had the privilege of meeting at Northwestern—Will Reno of the African Studies Department—said that his extraordinarily fruitful career path unfolded unplanned as one thing led to the next; in the process, he just always focused on his passions. And as Brent and Alex demonstrated, if you are a global health aficionado, you will find a way to incorporate it into your work.
Howard Thurman said “Don’t ask what the world needs; ask what makes you come alive. And then go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Our panelists were the living proof of this statement. They chose varied paths. Over the years since graduated, they continued to redirect their path as their interests and skills developed. Ultimately, they enjoy what they do because they did not limit themselves. That, I believe, it the glory of public or global health studies; the world is your oyster as there are limitless topics to explore and discover. There will always be a need for public health practitioners with diverse interests and skill sets.
Moral of the story? Keep doing what you love! Let your passions forge the way for a brilliant and prosperous career in global health.