Sunday, September 2, 2007

Saving Lives -- Millions at a time

Read this if you're interested in Public Health.
Or if you may be considering doing work in the health sector at some point or the other in your life/career.
Or, if, you just love me, cos thats okay tooooooooo.

So, we all know no one grows up aspiring to be a public health professional, an epidemiologist, a biostatician, or a volunteer. Apparently, 100% of my incoming class never thought they would go into Health. Growing up, I think I changed careers (aspiring) mebbe an average of 12 times a day. I would wake up convinced I would be a doctor one day, by the end of the day, various adults got different answers from me. Anything from boxer to pilot. Clearly, I didn't know where my life is going. But atleast I knew it was going somewhere right? So, well, had fun a la process. High School was the usual. If you went to boarding school in Africa you'll know what I'm talking about. A section for the math and science whizz kids, B section for the ones that aspired to be in the A section and weren't too far from the dream, and the C class was the class that hated the A class with a passion. No need to explain why. So, high school is the 5 years of your African life where you are being trained to want to be a doctor, an engineer or ...a doctor. Naturally, I developed a love for the biological science and hmm, wasn't too bad at it either, so med school here we come!
Things got confusing when I reached IB, where the hot kids were the art kids and econ was now the in thing. Physics was alrighhhtt, I guess but damn those English A1 higher level kids were the truth! Ok, so this was 2 years of confusion. Next step...liberal arts. We get to play around and choose a major that we will probably never use (half of Wesleyan went into investman banking, and most people were either a Bio major, a dance major or any such combination). Next thing, it's 3 months to graduation and you're wondering what the heck to do with yr life. Is thisyr story too? Read on. Not yr story? Read on.

Getting into Public Health, for most people, is influenced (at any point in their careers) by some event or experience they have, usually in a low-income, pretty messed up country/town/state/village. The first thing a professor told me when I started classes was : If you're looking for a quick way to get rich, please apply to Harvard Buisness School. Public Health is not yr place. Ok so maye u CAN be rich doing Public Health, but if it's yr number 1 goal, you'll be very frustrated for a while. Lesson number 1, if you plan on going into public health -- marry rich. Cos the income sure as hell wont be coming from you! Im now patiently waiting for my business/engineering man to come take me for a carpet ride! (while I vaccinate 30 kids in Nakuru. Where are you, my lover! I need u and I need your money. For real. (Attention men: I really do have a heart, i promise to love and cherish too neh. The bride price will be worth it).Which brings me to point number 2. Public Health is for people WITH a heart. You have to feel connected to the people that you want to reach. It's not just about medical care, its about culture too. So, if u have those 2 down, we are free to move on to the most important thing abt Pub Health (PH).

The reason I love P.H., other than that I believe it's part of God's purpose for my life and for the life of others that I will meet along this wonderful journey, is the fluidity of the discipline. I walk into a health management and policy class and there's 3 great professors there to just pour out the knowledge. An MBA, an MD and some random PHD geek who happened to work for a pharmaceutical company for 18 years. PH is not a concrete science! (I am beginning to understand why i absolutely hated organic chemistry). It's a great mixture of medicine, economics, biostatistics, engineering, anthropology, politics, linguistics, u name it, its all in there baby. And the truth is, anyone can go into Public Health, whether you are fresh out of college and you were a history major, or you are a 60 yr old doctor thats decided to go a little more global. Its about populations, social groups, countries,'s about love, smiles, solutions and dreams. And if you love Africa (and other developing regions) as much as I do, you'll realize that the health sector needs you, too! Whether you're a biochem student looking to get into law, or maybe you're a dancer and you taught some Swazi kids how to dance over a summer (I don't see how that is possible), or you're just someone with a passion and fire for a place where thousands and millions of your countryboys and girls never get the chance to see, live, talk, love, dream, smile, play soccer, feel the rain, drink clean water, get married, run in the sand...because their lives are claimed by things such as HIV, malaria, hunger, war, stupid governments, terrible decision-making, etc. You too can do something. Seriously, it's been said, again and again and again. Yes, yes, we must be the change we want to see...but really I've discovered that just saving one life, saves millions thereafter. For real though, I don't want to be the last remaining Swazi on earth (although that would be kinda cool no? Would they frame me and put me in a museum outside La L'ouvre?) I'm just doing my heal and deliver to those I love the most...and in the process, save the world...millions at a time.