Get out into the field, gain experience, find mentors and create the path you want to follow, 7 global health experts told more than 300 students at a Saturday afternoon forum at the 2016 Consortium of Universities for Global Health conference.
Diverse in experience and position, the experts—including a clinical professor, a lawyer, a provost, a pediatrician and others—shared lessons learned over decades. It’s not always glamorous (there was the story of discovering an underwear drawer overrun with ants) or easy (consider the tears streaming down the cheeks of a child saying goodbye to her dad leaving for another overseas stint), but the work offers deep rewards, researchers said.
The top 7 tips from the forum are:
1. “Spend as much time in field as you can early in your career,” advised Sriram Shamasunder, an associate clinical professor, at the University of California, San Francisco. There’s no substitute for experience you gain by working in the field: “I took a pay cut and funded myself sometimes, but I was able to spend time in the field and that raises questions and ideas in ways that you can’t get in a classroom in San Francisco,” he says. Plus, it gets harder to leave home when you have children and have to leave them at home to travel abroad.
2. “Be willing and open to transformation,” counseled Timothy Brewer, a vice provost at UCLA. “I think most of you will admit that when you come back from these kinds of experiences different than when you went. That can be very powerful.”
3. “For you to engage in global health activities later in life, you need to see the world,” advises Jason Blackard, director of Office of Global health, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.
4. “Look at the different roles around you and once you figure out the role you want, [then] figure out the skills you need for that role,” says Julie Herlihy, assistant professor of Pediatrics, and director of Pediatric Global Health at the University of California, Davis.
5. “Find your mentors. You need many mentors. It is going to be a community of people,” Herlihy advises.
6. “When you see a door, don’t be afraid to go through it. After you’ve walked through a few doors and you get a little farther on in your career, listen. The most important thing I do in my job is listen,” Brewer says.
7. “You need to like the people you work with. A true partnership emerges when people like each other. Everything is about the relationships for me,” says Matthew Dasco, director of Center for Global health Education, UT Medical Branch.