Richard is a second-year Community Health Sciences MPH student with a focus in Maternal and Child Health and a concentration in Global Health. During the summer of 2016, Richard spent time as the Recruitment and Retention liaison and Programs Director at Anza Mapema, a study under the Nyanza Reproductive Health Society, in Kisumu, Kenya. Anza Mapema, which loosely translates to Early Start, is a program that aimed to recruit 700 MSM for participation in an HIV prevention/treatment program. Richard was able to participate in this program because of generous funding from the UIC MCH Center of Excellence, and through participation in the school’s Kenya Program, which provided room and boarding with a host family.
What about the Global Health Concentration at UIC made its greatest impact on you?
Having access to leaders in their respective fields made it easy to choose UIC and the Global Health program. Because of those global connections, I was placed in Kenya for the summer, and additionally, I was able to pursue research that is relevant to populations that align with my research interest.
What was the most valuable thing you learned through your global professional experience?
I learned that Pubic Health really is everywhere. In the School of Public Health, we teach Health in All Policies, but seeing this in action, on a global scale was a great experience. On one of the beaches in Kisumu, there is a weekly beach party. Seeing Health Advocates at the party talking, mingling and handing out condoms and lubricants, was a great interplay of community based health.
How did your perspectives or worldview change as a result of this experience?
I have traveled extensively around the world and as such, I would not say that my worldview changed. However, my worldview was re-enforced by witnessing the cask systems that exist even in poorer communities abroad. There is a lot of work that needs to be done to bring equity to the world. I’m excited to continue on this path.
In what way did this experience enhance or change your career goals?
I was originally a bit hesitant about this opportunity because I did not think that working with the MSM community aligned with my MCH concentration. However, I was able to see the impact of marginalized populations regardless of sexuality or gender identification. This has led me to look more broadly at upcoming employment opportunities. Instead of looking for a pure maternal health job, I know that by working in family health, marginalized communities, or other aspects of community health, will still have a lasting impact on maternal health.
What advice would you give to current global health students?
Strike out and try something new. As I’d mentioned, I did not think this experience would fully align with my career and education goals. However, getting on the ground, I found a way to link this experience to my education goals. Additionally, you never really know when another chance will come to do something amazing.