My Evolving Views on Global Health

I was introduced to the concept of global health as a high school student.  One night my mother had mentioned that her co-worker had invited her on a “medical mission” for a week in the Dominican Republic.  Upon hearing this opportunity, I was immediately interested and at the age of 16, attended this week-long mission as a “translator.”  This became a yearly trip for the next 6 years and the reason I am a doctor today.  Global health at that time meant providing aid to the under-served in foreign countries.   It wasn’t until after college did I realize how misunderstood I was and the likely damage I contributed to during those 6 years.  After college, I had worked for an international NGO in Nicaragua for 1 year.  This experience taught me that the global health concept is more multi-faceted than I ever realized.

With my current understanding, what we call in a “global health pathway,” is an idea and mission to understand the different socioeconomic and psychosocial factors that impact countries, towns, and villages all over the world, how these factors contribute to health inequity, and if there is possibly a way to sustainably improve these inequalities globally.   Initially, I thought this was just providing free aid. Thankfully I was able to see the dangers in this work, and understand the necessity of sustainable projects that address so much more than providing medical aid, but also working with the communities and the country’s infrastructure to figure out medical access, affordability, and health literacy.   It is crucial to work on projects alongside communities to ensure facilitating what communities desire, rather than what we think they need.  Lastly, the idea of global health may easily be understood as relating to international countries, however the idea of improving health equity also applies to home countries.  There is health inequity in every country, and one does not need to travel abroad to help close the inequality gap.

Posted in BMC

One thought on “My Evolving Views on Global Health

  1. Great points, Sara. The challenge of connecting people to appropriate experiences from their initial exposure is quite real – it is hard to expect students to be able to discriminate between effective, appropriate experiences & more exploitative ones, particularly as organizations and projects can evolve over time. There’s increasing attention to short-term experiences in global health, and some attempts at standardization are coming down the way.

    One of our pathway graduates wrote a thesis about this in Honduras!:

    Click to access Bradke.pdf

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