It’s HERE! National Public Health Week!

Woooo! Check out the cool events this week!


Public Health Day of Service this Wednesday!

WEDNESDAY: Public Health Day
March 31, 2010
Hosted by Dwight Hall Public Health Coalition

Documentary: “In Sickness and In Wealth”
7:00PM – 8:00PM
Dwight Hall Common Room
What are the connections between healthy bodies, healthy bank accounts and skin color? Join the Public Health Coalition to explore whether medical care cures us but to see why we get sick in the first place, and why patterns of health and illness reflect underlying patterns of class and racial inequities.

Followed by a Public Health Advocacy Moment in collaboration with Amnesty International
Dwight Hall Common Room
Write to Senators asking for an extension of unemployment benefits for jobless Americans. This action is based on materials from The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, a national civil and human rights advocacy and research organizations. Snacks will be served!

Volunteering at Leeway

Leeway is CT’s only residential facility for people with HIV/AIDS. Around since 1985, with up to 40 beds, numerous recreational activities, and a passionate and committed staff, Leeway performs important work that many Yale students aren’t aware of. I have been volunteering at Leeway since the first semester of my freshman year, and it has been a wonderful experience. I now know that I want to pursue a career in HIV/AIDS-related service work. Contact me ( if you are also interested in volunteering!

One survey at a time: An Internship Update

Unjali shares her childhood happy accident:

When I was younger, my dream was to become a doctor. I always knew that I wanted to help people improve their lives, and I was interested in healtcare, therefore I figured a career in medicine would be the best option for me. I made becoming a doctor my goal and I worked really hard to make it happen. Everything was going according to plan until one fateful day in the 2nd grade. A freak accident during a routine art project caused me to staple a piece of construction paper to my left index finger. My teacher promptly sent me to the nurse’s office and it was on the walk up that I discovered I would never become a doctor. At the first sight of blood oozing from my wound, I began to feel nauseated. I fainted right on the spot. So there I was, a scrawny seven year old, passed out on the grass in front of the nurse’s office, with a shattered life’s dream and a piece of freaking construction paper stapled to my finger.

Fast forward approximately twenty years later. My desire to help people improve their lives through the betterment of their health still remains. Only now, the approach is much different. Instead of through treatment, the improvements come through prevention. To find answers to the questions that need to be asked, however, is a daunting and tedious task. As students of public health, we inveribly read study after study about this or that. Sometimes we might scoff at a sample size that we deem too small, or wonder why the researchers didn’t take a closer look at something. It is not until we, ourselves, actually try and complete these studies that we realize just how much work actually goes into them.

A study that I am currently working on calls for data to be collected on 200 patients via written survey. Easy enough….or so I thought. At any given day in the clinic, the doctors may see 40 patients. Half of them, however, usually are not eligible to participate. Out of the remaining 20, half have already completed the survey at a prior visit. That leaves maybe 10 eligible patients, some of whom don’t want to participate, and some of whom I miss because I am busy interviewing someone else. Most days in the clinic, I spend 8 hours on my feet, running back and forth, trying to talk to people, only to come away with maybe 5 interviews. And that’s if I’m lucky. As harrowing as it is sometimes, I always leave the clinic feeling really happy. In my mind, each and every survey is like gold. While one survey alone may not be that big of a deal, each one is a part of something that is much bigger than myself. Each one is a contribution. Each one is a piece of the puzzle that will eventually serve to unlock the answers to questions that may help people improve their heath and wellbeing. And the best part is, I can do it all without seeing a single drop of blood. That is of course, provided I don’t staple the surveys to my finger.

[Don’t forget to send in your update to get posted on the blog! E-mail your story to Ji!]

Acumen Fund Student Leaders Workshop

Earlier this summer, 17 students from across the US and around the world came together in New York City to talk about one thing: social entrepreneurship. I was privileged to participate in the Acumen Fund‘s inaugural Student Leaders Workshop and the experience was insightful, exciting, and humbling all at once.

While the workshop focused on poverty alleviation and development through “patient capitalism,” many of the lessons I took away from the program have significant implications for all things public health. (It seems, after all, the more public health courses I take, the more I recognize the importance of well-structured, well-managed, sustainable interventions that truly address the needs of the people served.) The solution? More focus on market mechanisms.

While market mechanisms may not work for everything (read: health care in the US), there is definitely something to say for the empowerment of the underserved by supporting a long-lasting business economy, not providing charity and aid alone. Organizations like Kiva, Ashoka, Skoll Foundation, Echoing Green, and Acumen Fund are recognizing the potential for growth, and “social returns” in a new and emerging market populus: the poor. By targeting the “base of the [economic] pyramid,” companies can find new opportunities for profit while including underserved populations in to the global economy. And not just as consumers, but producers too. It’s worth looking up if you haven’t done so before. Check out #socent on Twitter if you really want to see what’s going on.

Our student group was also fortunate enough to hear the enthusiastic words of businessman, marketing guru, best-selling author, and activist Seth Godin. He offered a lot if interesting wisdom and a challenge to young students to fight against the status quo and truly make a difference in the world. One of his pearls worth listening to: “Don’t go to medical school.”

The group of passionate, out-spoken, intelligent students (of whom I came across clearly by mistake) came to the workshop each offering their unique skills, vision, and ideals. Each left with enthusiasm to continue the work of creating positive social change and each left with a determination to continue the push for a social movement to end global poverty.

Currently, the group is working on developing a new product that will help spread awareness for the ideas of social entrepreneurship in bringing about change in poverty alleviation, health, and sustainable energy. Additionally, a viral film is in production to bring people together from all over the world to see what changes can be made through social enterprise (Find out more here or get involved here)

Let’s get to work.

SoCal Stories – An internship update

Unji Gujral shares an update from Southern California…

Greetings everyone from sunny Southern California!  Not to brag, but the weather here is absolutely amazing!!!  I hope everyone is enjoying their summers and having a wonderful time at their respective internships.  I have been working at the Chao Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UCI Med Center for about a month now.  The Med Center is located in the heart of Orange County, California (or as many people know it, “The OC”).  I am just a stone’s throw away from Disneyland and Angel Stadium, although I have yet to visit either place since being back home.   My job here consists of interviewing patients in the clinic, completing retrospective chart reviews, attending lectures and symposiums, and working with our dear friend, SAS.  To be honest, the retrospective chart review aspect sucks.  While looking through these charts, I am forced to sit in a frigid room, by myself, for hours on end, with nothing but boxes of illegible medical records to keep me company.  While the chart review is rather miserable, my favorite part of the experience by far is interviewing the patients in the clinic.  All of the women I speak with have had some sort of gynecological cancer, ie cervical, ovarian, uterine, etc.  The majority have had complete hysterectomies, and have gone through multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation as a part of their treatment.  What amazes me about these women is their strength.  Despite their circumstances, they are happy.  They approach what is dealt to them with amazing attitudes and brilliant outlooks on life.  Perhaps my favorite patient thus far is a woman named Monica.  I had the pleasure of meeting her when she came to the clinic for a follow up after her last round of chemotherapy.  Monica can best be described as a vibrant Hispanic woman in her 40’s who exudes an aura of warmth and kindness.  The second she walked into the clinic she gave hugs and kisses to all of the nurses and smiles to all of her fellow patients.    Like most patients, she was more than happy to sit and chat with me.  She told me that she loved coming to the clinic because she got to see her “boyfriend” (the attending physician that she admittedly has a crush on).  When I asked her how she was feeling after her treatment she replied with a smile and said “I feel great!  I am not going to let this disease get me down.  Oh, and girl, I know I still look good, with hair or without!”  After our interview, she left me with a warm hug and a kiss on the cheek.  I only spent 20 minutes with her, but I know I am going to remember Monica for a very long time.

I am not sure what I was hoping to get out of this internship.  Going into it, I think I was looking for some research experience, data for my thesis, and perhaps a publication.  While I hope that I do attain those things, the lessons I am learning from the women I talk to are the things I will value the most.  I am learning that the human spirit has a remarkable capacity to overcome.  I am learning that strength comes in many shapes and forms.  I am learning that if you want to find out what people need in order to improve their health and quality of life, all you have to do is be sincere in your caring, and ask them.  I am learning that laughter and a good attitude really is the best medicine, preventative or otherwise.  Most of all, I am learning about what I value in terms of a career in public health.  I love putting faces to, and interacting with, the people whose lives we aim to improve through our work.  While the chart reviews and the SAS may not always be so favorable, its all worth it when the Monicas of the world live to thrive and smile another day.

 [Don’t forget to send in your update to get posted on the blog!]

Rolling on…

Dear friends,

It’s been a while since I last reported and I have been mostly waiting for something eventful to have happened. I have been to a few museums already, celebrated a few holidays with the locals, and proceeded with my research plan. The people at the NGO have been extremely helpful assisting me with certain logistical issues. The NGO does a lot of work with commercial sex workers and I will soon be going in their van to observe some outreach work. On Thursday I finally got IRB approval here and so I am good to go with my research. Tomorrow I will be going to a narcology clinic (basically a clinic where they treat drug abuse) to deliver my survey and informed consent forms as well as compensation for participating in the study. It’s kinda crazy how all of this stuff that was once all jumbled in my head a few months ago is now coming to reality. I suppose that is one of the greatest aspects of doing research. In the mean time, I thought I would share this video of a few Russian kids and one conspicuously larger, older, and bare-chested Russian kid dancing the night away (btw – the video was taken at 9:00 pm. Since St. Petersburg is so far north, the sun sets very late in the summer for a period known as “beliy nochi”, or “white nights”). I am curious to hear how everyone else’s summer is going so please post something.
Thanks and hope all is well wherever you may be!