Tuesday, 4 June 2013

A Student's Perspective on Global Health

Christina Chandra is working as a communications intern for THET this summer. She is a senior at Yale University majoring in the History of Science, Medicine, and Public Health. In this blog, she reflects on her experiences with global health.

My interest in global health began in high school. For summer reading one year, I chose to read Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. It was an inspirational story about Paul Farmer, a doctor and anthropologist who co-founded Partners in Health with some of his friends, including Jim Kim who is currently the president of the World Bank. For the next few years, Paul Farmer was my idol. I had always wanted to become a doctor, yet I could never decide on what kind of doctor I wanted to be. But now, I wanted to become a doctor who volunteered overseas part-time and specialised in infectious diseases, just like Paul Farmer.

Since I have been in college, I have realized how naïve I was. Although reading Mountains Beyond Mountains inspired me to develop my own convictions that health is a human right, I was naïve in thinking that the message of the book was that the world needed more doctors who volunteered overseas. I actually thought that was how impact would be made: by healing one patient at a time. Naturally, I became frustrated with not having the skills, expertise, or funds to do anything to help those suffering in a country miles and miles away from me. But then my perspective changed once I started taking classes on global health and joined the Yale Student Global Health and AIDS Coalition.

Through my coursework and experiences as a student AIDS activist, I learned that doctors alone could not rid the world of health inequalities and eliminate all barriers to healthcare. I also learned that institutional power played a major role in the health of nations, that global also means local, that inequalities in a society would be reflected in health inequalities, and that I had a role to play as a student. Since then, I’ve gone to actions and have met with my congressmen and community leaders to talk about both domestic and international health policy. What I love about global health is its strong roots in social justice. Global health is interconnected with advocacy for everything from LGBT rights, women’s rights, and minority and immigrant rights. Therefore, I have been able to engage in grassroots activities that have also encompassed many of the issues I care about.

These experiences brought me to where I am today, working as a communications intern for THET. I have only been at THET for a week, but I already have a strong sense of purpose within this organization. Every day I learn something new about how policies are implemented, how to successfully carry out programmes, and how a small NGO with global impact operates. It has been exciting to see what I have learned in my courses be put to practice at THET. Although I do not know what the future holds for me, I know that I will continue to be involved in global health work and my experience here at THET will be a valuable one.

I am very grateful to the THET team for making me feel welcome and for giving me this opportunity to learn and work with them.  I am looking forward to the rest of the summer together!