The Time is Now: Think Global, Act Local

This post by M.S. Global Medicine student Priyanka Vachhani originally appeared on LinkedIn.

“So this is going to require some extra work… and a lot more digging than we usually do for a project… but what if we picked something recent… and relevant to the point that it would transcend the classroom?” I remembered asking our group when we were brainstorming topics for our Children in Emergency Situations class early last year.

Grad school had been a bit different than what I had originally anticipated. I expected to read a lot, study a lot, and then turn around and apply my newly acquired knowledge to solving real world problems and in turn develop new skills… But when your field is global health, and you are twenty-something years old, it’s hard to know where to start get your hands dirty in global issues from the comfort of Los Angeles.It was not that we didn’t want to — we very much did. One can argue that LA itself is host to many health issues such as hunger, homelessness and long ER wait times. Many of these were complex issues worth exploring but perhaps not fit for a class project.

“Global is local” was a theme that had echoed through many of our courses — yes, there were hungry children in Nepal, but there were also hungry kids in the LA Unified School District. Homelessness is not only an issue abroad in India, but in LA as well. The problems that we were learning to address were not only global problems, but local ones as well. This inspired us. The United States is a major source of research and development investment; what if we picked a topic that was not only relevant to the U.S., but also abroad? In light of recent discussions for the Great American Shakeout, and talk of “The Big One” on the West Coast, we started looking into earthquakes.

Fast forward a few months.

Despite our initial thoughts, we had not expected our project to go further than our classroom. Our professor had recommended that we submit our abstract to the 2016 American Public Health Association (APHA) annual meeting, but months had passed and we had given up hope. Then I got an email stating our abstract status had changed. We had been invited to the 2016 APHA meeting in Denver to present our research.

Looking back, I wish I had realized this concept before: as students in degree programs, we have the ability to work on an assortment of projects while completing our degree. Why not take the time to research those topics that others have not looked into? Why not pick topics that have the ability to give back to the global scientific community? Why not use these class projects we have to do anyway as a means of making that change? We can take the “easy” way out, but if we are going to put in the time, effort and sweat into a project anyway for that “A”, in the process of producing something that we are proud of, why not produce something that can transcend the classroom and improve people’s lives while still getting us one step closer to that diploma?

In 2017 consider making a unique resolution; one that will not only make your class projects more interesting, but will also make an impact. Each semester, challenge yourself to take on a project that will benefit the global/ local community, and interweave it into a class project. Whether it is meshing global warming and geospatial analysis, prosthetics and mechanical engineering, Medicaid reimbursement and accounting, or mental health and the visual arts, there are infinite permutations. The focus should not be what two fields you combine, but rather how you take your chosen field past the classroom to benefit humanity. As students, the community invests in us; this is a simple way to give back while learning transferable skills in the process. Consider this my formal call to action — yes, as students we can be the change we wish to see in the world.

#StudentVoices #DataforGood #PublicHealth #GlobalHealth #BetheChange #NewYear #ActNow #TransferableSkills #FightOn

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