Are you interested in global public health? With residences in Geneva, Switzerland and Florence, Italy as well as many global partnerships in China, India, Turkey and beyond, Kent State students have several options when searching for opportunities to expand their horizons while connecting classroom learnings to global scenarios, as well as gain exposure to other cultures and areas of the world.
Master’s of Public Health students, in particular, are afforded a once in a lifetime opportunity to study in Geneva and fully explore the impact of government policy and private interventions on global public health needs. Some of the unique opportunities of this immersion include visiting and attending briefings at the following agencies: World Health Organization, Global Fund, Diplomatic Mission of the United States of America, Doctors Without Borders, International Committee of the Red Cross and others, as well as dialoguing with worldwide government and non-governmental organization (NGO) leaders in global healthcare initiatives.
Continue reading to see the experience through the eyes of two Kent State Master’s in Health Informatics students, Rachel Paterno and Meghan Lee.
LEARNING FROM WORLD LEADERS
For Paterno, the Global Immersion course “was a huge factor for me in choosing Kent for my MPH. I have always been interested in global health and saw it as an opportunity to expand my experience on a global scale.” Lee similarly felt that this experience would be life-changing and was “sold on the experience” when she saw that the World Health Assembly (WHA) was located in Geneva.
It was at the WHA that Paterno feels that getting the opportunity to speak with individuals from a wide variety of countries and in different parts of the healthcare industry provided her with the greatest global perspective.
Kent students were able to witness something that hadn’t happened in a decade–the induction of a new president. “We were fortunate enough to attend during an election year for the new World Health Organization Director General, bringing the past 10 years under the leadership of Dr. Margaret Chan to a close,” said Lee. “Looking back, I think that getting to witness Dr. Chan’s final address to the assembly and the Director General-Elect, Dr. Tedros, set the tone of worldwide public health efforts for his upcoming term, was something I will not forget.”
APPLYING COURSEWORK IN REALTIME
Paterno felt that the leadership class was the best prepared her for this experience was the Foundations for Effective Public Health Leadership class, which examines the impact and practices of effective public health leaders. She also said that “getting to be a part of strategic planning for the World Churches Council allowed me to use my management skills.”
Having practiced writing the types of documents that are used and presented in settings like WHA or the UN in her Healthcare Systems and Public Health Administration courses, Lee found that “A lot of what I learned at the World Health Assembly were things I was already aware of and had some additional knowledge of, but the practical skills of being able to handle the business side of this work helped me to connect to what these delegates were doing.”
THE VALUE OF COOPERATION
One theme that was stressed by both students was the need for cooperation and teamwork between countries. Paterno said she “realized global healthcare needs are not a one size fits all policy. But I also learned, that living in a globalized world, means we have to at least all be on the same page.” The necessity for working together was strongly exemplified in this situation described by Lee, “One of the breakout sessions was a discussion on universal healthcare, with a panel of delegates from various developed and developing countries,” she said. “Although they did not explicitly mention the country by name, several of the speakers made sure to strongly mention that there was one country missing from this working group that should be present, the United States.”
Lee went on to say that “None of this could be possible without the teamwork of delegates and nations. The World Health Organization and Assembly bring together all of these people to come up with solutions to the world’s most pressing health issues and rising concerns, and it showed me that we really are all in this together.”
AN EXPERIENCE THAT CHANGES YOU
Another memorable moment of the trip was attending the briefing given by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Amanda McClelland, the 2015 recipient of the Florence Nightingale award and one of the key speakers, shared her experience working to rebuild a community after a tsunami. McClelland also spoke about her recent trip to assess an area that was previously part of an Ebola outbreak.
For Paterno, “Hearing their stories was the most inspiring. They answered all of our questions and really opened my mind to the work they do.” But Lee felt even more strongly after hearing about the work McClelland and the Red Cross do. “My experience at the International Committee of the Red Cross and other agencies has lead me to consider working in the field as an epidemiologist someday, responding directly to outbreaks, working with local residents who are affected or at risk, and tracing exposures to prevent the spread of more disease,” she said. “This was a path that I had not thought about before, so I am very grateful to have heard the experiences of our presenters to know what options to explore.”
If global healthcare and the impact of global public health policy interests you, consider how a semester abroad in Geneva learning from world leaders in the Global Health Immersion course from Kent State University’s online Master of Public Health program could help you find your true calling.