By Kaitlin Keane
The paths that led the Institute of Health and Social Justice interns to Boston this summer are varied, and our future plans span a wide range of careers and specialties — but as an international group of students, clinicians and young professionals, we share a common commitment to fighting poverty, social injustices and health inequities.
Jill Shah discovered her passion for public health and social justice early on, growing up amid the bustling streets of Mumbai. For Peter Kaminski, it was work as an EMT that highlighted the country’s health disparities and placed him on the road to medicine. Sika Holman was drawn to public health after years as an RN and a stint in the Peace Corps, while Brittany Powell found passion in the classroom, learning about global health disparities firsthand from PIH co-founder Paul Farmer during a course at Harvard College.
Our group of 27 started the summer at PIH last week with the promise of working on projects and initiatives that matter both to us and people around the world. Through specific project work paired with lectures and discussions, the program will also provide exposure to global public health issues that many of us have long been hungry to learn more about.
“Global Health has always been my passion, before I even knew it had a name,” said Sarah Phillips, a Colorado College student working on the Right to Health Care team, which transports patients to the US to receive care unavailable in their home country, with the help of collaborating hospitals and clinicians. Like many of us, Phillips began following PIH’s work after reading about Paul Farmer and fellow co-founder Ophelia Dahl in Tracy Kidder’s “Mountains Beyond Mountains,“ and relishes the opportunity to learn more about her mentors’ efforts to bring integrated comprehensive health systems to the poor.
As we work on various projects and find our way around PIH, we will be writing about new experiences, interesting stories and people and new knowledge gleaned from meetings, lectures and interactions. Watch for reflections on meeting local patients, interviews with longtime employees working in the field, and details about the projects in which we are involved.
For many of us, the work we are doing will builds on previous experience or fields of study, and we hope to utilize PIH’s successful model and resources both to get better at what we do and make a valuable contribution here.
For example, Xeno Acharya, originally from Nepal, will work with in Boston with Dr. Edward Nardell on tubersulosis research, building on his previous work with infection prevention at a hospital in Ethiopia. Kate Glynn will bring both non-profit experience from her time at The American Cancer Society and skills gleaned as an MBA candidate at the Boston University to her internship with PIH's development team. And as a fourth year medical student, Donal Hanratty will travel from Ireland to Boston to support research studies in Haiti, which will expand upon skills he learned while organizing an AIDS awareness campaign in Andhra Pradesh, India.
From Boston to Rwanda
In addition to our local Boston IHSJ interns, this blog will include posts and updates from a younger group of interns who are farther away. Three local high school students -- Becca Nova, Danny Davis and Nikki Philip will fly to PIH’s site in Rwanda this month to spend a month documenting patient experiences and progress at Rwinkwavu Hospital, teaching English to eager staff and assisting employees in both the pediatric ward and agricultural fields.
Nova, who has previously traveled to the Rwanda site four times, said the chance to live and work among the people she has previously only met in passing will offer a chance at greater fulfillment and the opportunity to help.
“Each time I go there I’ve been able to connect more with the people and the country, and living there will give me a chance to really feel like I’m a part of what’s going on,” she said. “I won’t just be hearing about people doing good things but actually doing them.”
Kaitlin Keane is an IHSJ Summer Intern with PIH's Communications Team.