By Matthew Zhou
From the sandy beaches of California to the metropolitan areas of Washington D.C, GlobeMed chapter members flooded into Evanston from across the nation for the GlobeMed 2014 Summit. Co-presidents, chapter members, speakers and panelists of all different walks of life gathered during this dreary forty-degree Evanston weekend for the purpose of sharing their experiences and ideals and reaffirming their commitment towards achieving global health equity through partnership and collaboration. In seven years, GlobeMed has achieved rapid expansion to 55 chapters, 2000 college students, 1.4 million dollars raised, and over 200 projects in water sanitation, disease prevention, nutrition programs, and a vast diversity of other issues. As a student summit delegate, it was a lot to take in.
My GlobeMed summit experience was a powerfully inspiring experience, a space where intelligent and ambitious students and professionals all gathered to seriously deconstruct and discuss the million dollar question: how do we achieve global health equity? There were plenty of interesting and constructive panels and speakers, but the overarching theme was one familiar to every member of GlobeMed: partnership. More specifically, negotiating power and privilege relationships to make true collaboration possible. From Dr. Prabhjot Singh, a professor at Columbia University, utilizing his experiences as a victim of hate crimes as a platform to advocate for structural change or GlobeMed at Morgan State GROW Coordinator Kayla Walker leveraging her minority status as a black woman for better opportunities in education, one crucial theme emerged from reframing disadvantages to your own advantage. These are not passive populations that we are trying to support – they are strong men and women hindered by structural obstacles that we are helping to empower. We talk a lot about global health in abstract terms – it’s how we brand and present ourselves. What we really work with and what we need to emphasize, however, are human relationships. We work with women, children, fathers, mothers, across races, genders, sexualities, professions, and varying levels of education. It’s more than treating sickness and poverty – it’s about hearing these people’s stories, empathizing and caring, and then coming up with concrete, relevant programs to address these people’s specific needs. These people deserve better than to be generalized – their nuanced stories demand the more intimate understanding and partnership that GlobeMed has recognized as crucial in resolving health disparities.
This instinct for empathy is essential in any future global health leader. It is something that GlobeMed actively cultivates within each and every member. As health professionals, we will be responsible for the next generation of public health and medical advancements; Lawrence Summers, former Harvard President and U.S. Treasury Secretary, claims that:
“We could achieve universally low rates of infectious, maternal and child deaths by 2035.”
Global health equity possible within our generation at 2035. As emerging young professionals, there is a great pressure on us to lead future global health initiatives in the correct direction. As college undergraduates, there is also a great pressure to think pre-professionally in terms of resume-building and executive positions. Many students are uncertain about their futures and obsess over jobs, internships, and their general future. We need to stop putting our faith in degrees and jobs, and start putting our faith in ourselves. No person can control the future, nor should we try to make the future safe or predictable. It is not possible. The one secure fact in one’s life is that you can prepare yourself to handle any situation that comes your way. Develop yourself, empathize with others, and live in the moment and the future will change from scary to exciting. If there is one thing that summit has taught me, it is that no person or situation is unchangeable. It is simply a matter of reframing disadvantages into advantages. Utilize the current opportunities around you to grow, and success will follow in your footsteps.