Jiana, second-year CHS Global Health Concentration MPH student, was the recipient of a Douglas Passaro Global Horizons Scholarship. She conducted her practicum in the Iganga District of Uganda in the of summer 2014. Jiana worked on the Uganda Village Project (UVP) as a member of a monitoring and evaluation team placed in the Kasambiika 2 village. The team follow-up on the progress of the village and implemented educational sessions as needed regarding Malaria, HIV/AIDS, family planning, water, sanitation, and hygiene. Additionally, Jiana and her team conducted community meetings, focus groups, SWOT analyses, follow-up surveys, and educational workshops.
What about the Global Health Concentration at UIC made its greatest impact on you and how did it prepare you for a global practicum?
The global health successes and challenges courses provided a firm foundation of understanding health on a global scale. They were some of the best courses I’ve taken at UIC SPH. Being part of the GH concentration also gave me the opportunity to interact with fellow students, faculty, and staff that provided valuable insight on the logistics of working abroad and with a wide range of cultures. Understanding that culture, limited resources, the health care system, and so forth plays a critical role in health outcomes prepared me for adjusting to the work in rural Iganga. Furthermore, the resources offered by genuine and amazing faculty and staff in the GH concentration aided in the entire process of finding a practicum, financial assistance opportunities, and overall preparation.
What was the most valuable thing you learned through your global professional experience?
The most valuable thing that I learned through my global professional experience is patience. Work abroad is very different when compared to the fast paced lifestyle of the Western world. Having patience and cultural sensitivity is key to developing a positive environment with fellow colleagues and the target population.
How did this experience prepare you for work in public health?
My practicum experience enhanced my skills in engaging with the community, establishing local partnerships, conducting a needs assessment, surveying techniques, and data analysis, which is extremely beneficial for work in public health. Additionally, it prepared me with the ability to work with extremely diverse teams and collaboratively develop ways to overcome challenges and barriers for global public health advancement.
How did your perspectives or worldview change as a result of this experience?
I did not come back to the states with the same mindset as when I left for Uganda. After living in a village without running water or electricity and high rates of diseases, health inequities across the globe have never been so striking. I’ve realized that simply providing financial assistance may not always be key to sustainable interventions, yet all key stakeholders are essential for the development process to overcoming the inequity and disparity gap. I’ve also gained a strong appreciation for other cultures and the unique ways others perceive health, life, and the world.
In what way did this experience enhance or change your career goals?
My global experience re-fueled my passion to work overseas and/or with migrant populations. There is something beautiful in the smiles and warmth of people, no matter their culture, race, socioeconomic status, or nationality. I plan to continue global health work and focus my efforts on increasing those smiles in coordination with improved health across the world.
What advice would you give to current global health students?
Finding a global health practicum may initially feel daunting, but take advantage of the resources, experiences, and opportunities offered by faculty, staff, and alumni. Pay attention to the SPH e-mails on potential global opportunities and scholarships. I would highly recommend taking the planning and evaluation, community health assessment, research methods and a global health course prior to your practicum experience. The courses that would be most helpful definitely depend on the description of your project abroad, so be mindful of your practicum goals and that of the organization you plan to work with.