Written by Sara Murtagh, MB BCh BAO candidate, University College Dublin, Ireland, and participant in the 2021 Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program
Participating in the Institute of Public Health Summer Research Program, Public and Global Health Track has been a fantastic opportunity for me to learn from a variety of professionals focused on disease prevention, health promotion, and health protection through their contribution to paediatric, public, and global health, which is an incredibly broad field incorporating diverse disciplines and research interests.
We had an engaging panel discussion on Careers in Paediatrics, Global and Public Health, moderated by Ericka Hayes, MD, which gave insights into the career paths of panellists and their inspiration.
Diego Abente, JD, spoke about growing up in the U.S. compared to his relatives in Paraguay and how he witnessed scarcity and sacrifice experienced by some and privilege and opportunity experienced by others. He was inspired to help narrow that gap which he now does as President and CEO of Casa de Salud, a non-profit organisation delivering clinical and mental healthcare to the uninsured, focusing on the immigrant community.
Douglas M. Char, MD, shared his involvement in Public Health as a physician on a federal disaster response team. He explained his role as Chief Medical Officer of the in-the-field Command and Control team, overseeing deployed teams during large scale disasters. He reflected on disaster response noting local people, while the most impacted, can also be responders greatest resource given their understanding of the social discrepancies and community needs. He highlighted the importance of ensuring the equitable distribution of care in disaster responses.
Executive and founding director of Washington University programs The SPOT and Project ARK, Kim Donica, LCSW, told us about her work to remove barriers for youth access to healthcare. She shared her passion for identifying community needs and bringing services together to address them. Her projects coordinate medical care, mental health counselling, social support, and prevention services for young people and families living with/at risk for HIV infection.
Lori Holtz, MD, is a paediatric gastroenterologist with a research focus on the role of viruses in paediatric health and disease. She recounted how initially she was not drawn to research but fell in love with it during her fellowship and how this change of focus gave her new opportunities she never would have suspected when she first began her career as a clinician.
Deborah Salvo, PhD, explained how although she initially studied nutrition, through her volunteer work helping undocumented workers access healthcare she became more interested in health equity and reducing disparities. Her work now looks at social determinants of health through studying how city design influences health, and how cities can be made healthier and more equitable to ensure everyone has the opportunity to lead healthy lifestyles.
This panel illustrated to me how careers in healthcare can evolve over time. It is exciting to see the vast range of different Public and Global Health opportunities available, all dedicated to ensuring there is equitable access to healthcare resources. Improving the health and lives of not just individual patients but also the wider population is something I also hope to contribute to throughout my medical career.