Section Connection An insider's view of the APHA International Health Section

"So much of what we are currently seeing as far as human suffering and misery comes from diseases that should have been preventable but were not."

Francis Collins, Director, National Institutes of Health

Issue 7 - April 2018

In This Issue:

  • Member Highlights
  • Student Spotlight
  • Getting to Know APHA
  • Notes From the Field
  • Explore IH Connect
  • IH Conversations


  • Theresa Majeski - Editor-in-Chief
  • Chandra Sekar - Contributing Associate Editor

Member Highlights

Data confirm: Yes, it really is that hard to get a job in global health

By Jessica Keralis

We are members of the International Health Section because we are passionate about global health. Many of us (particularly student and early career professional members) aspire to establish our career in this field and are trying to understand how best to position ourselves to enter a highly competitive job market and come out with gainful employment. However, spending months or even years applying for these jobs with no luck is an experience that is frustrating - and all too common.

The Global Health Jobs Analysis Project was born out of a pair of conversations I had at the 2015 Annual Meeting in Chicago with IH Section members who shared my frustrations. Riding the wave of energy from the conference, we resolved to put together a team to collect and analyze data on the global health job market for graduates of U.S.-based MPH programs. The Global Health Connections Committee recruited and trained volunteers, and the project coordinators developed a data collection protocol based on what we wanted to know.

This project collected data on publicly posted job vacancies with the aim of giving the Section's students and aspiring global health professionals insight into the current global health job market. Data collection was conducted from November 2015 to May 2016 and included information on employer, position title, location, opening and closing dates, required education level, required years of experience, region and/or technical area of focus, and the required or preferred language skills of job vacancies. We are now pleased to announce that the results have been published in BMC Public Health.

Unfortunately, our results confirmed most job-seekers' frustrations:

"We analyzed the data from 1007 global health job vacancies from 127 employers. Among private and non-profit sector vacancies, 40% (n = 354) were for technical or subject matter experts, 20% (n = 177) for program directors, and 16% (n = 139) for managers, compared to 9.8% (n = 87) for entry-level and 13.6% (n = 120) for mid-level positions. […]

Our analysis shows a demand for candidates with several years of experience with global health programs, particularly program managers/directors and technical experts, with very few entry-level positions accessible to recent graduates of global health training programs. It is unlikely that global health training programs equip graduates to be competitive for the majority of positions that are currently available in this field."

The project team was committed to making both the results and the underlying data available to our members. As we searched for a journal, we chose to submit the manuscript for consideration only to those journals that our members would have access to, which meant either AJPH or an open access journal. The BMC journal series is open access, so the full text is available on the web and for download as a PDF file. This was particularly important, as financial support from the IH Section's enrichment fund paid for the qualitative analysis of the data. Additionally, all data are available for download and secondary analysis in an open repository.

More information on the project is available on the IH Section's website at https://aphaih.org/ghjobs_analysis/.

Student spotlight

Featuring: kayla Percy

By Teresa Ekaete Nwachukwu

Kayla Percy

Kayla Percy, our profiled student grew up in Texas. Raised by amazing parents that included a mother with a PhD in nursing, Kayla has always had a strong sense of her own privilege and the need to channel those privileges into good for the benefit of others. While studying as a writing major when on Semester at Sea, she became exposed for the first time to life in low-income countries. This widened her interest in other cultures and the recognition that she had no practical skills needed to contribute if she wanted to make a difference. On her return, she went on to obtain an Accelerated Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. Shortly after her brother began working with UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) , she got the inspiration to do humanitarian work in healthcare. After much research, MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières, aka Doctor's Without Borders) proved a superb fit because of their core principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence.

She took a couple of years to acquire the necessary experiences; getting comfortable in the area of emergency healthcare, growing as a leader, developing socio-cultural competencies with vulnerable populations before applying to MSF. After going through three interviews and a waiting period of 8 months, she received her first assignment to Old Fangak, South Sudan.

Old Fangak is a tiny village reachable only by foot, boat or plane. Her initial reaction on arrival in this deprived South Sudan village was one of shock. "I was terrified when I first arrived, but remembering why I was there and the skills and abilities I had [learned] helped me make it through the first two weeks which were very difficult."

Since this assignment was in rebel territory during the civil war, she was involved in treating war-wounded soldiers. This assignment lasted for 6 months and has been one of the most incredibly revealing experiences of her life.

After a 2 month break, she was sent for 5 months to Monrovia, the capital of the West African country, Liberia where her team helped to open a four-story children’s hospital in the city. Kayla was the nursing supervisor in the emergency department.

Photos of Kayla and colleagues in Liberia (top left), Thailand (top right), and South Sudan (bottom).

Several lessons were learned from these opportunities. According to Kayla, having revolving expats is hard for national staff. "This has led me to listen, watch and learn and not assume I know a better way because I may have more formal education."

Kayla went from her international assignments to John Hopkins, where she is currently doing a dual MSN/MPH. This career move is to help her impact populations going forward and understand their ground-level needs.

Although her career goals continue to evolve, she would like to work in the United States for a couple of years, mastering her skills as a pediatric nurse practitioner, before seeking more international exposure, especially in the area of training, developing guidelines and research.

This turbo-charged young lady is inspired by two great women, Melanie Percy, her mom and Florence Nightingale, who she says is arguably the ‘first humanitarian’. Kayla admires her mother because "Her passion and empathy, strengthened by her intelligence and wit have made her the most incredible nurse and mother ever."

FOR THOSE SEEKING INTERNATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES, KAYLA SAYS,"Take your time. Find an organization that fits with your ideals. Read the 'Crisis Caravan' by Linda Polman. Don’t assume you know what’s best for the locals. Ask, listen and learn. And work with the French if you can, they always have Nutella, saucisson and wine!"

Kayla, who loves hiking, camping, running, has recently started doing triathlons. Did we say she loves traveling?

We wish this multi-talented and smart public health ambassador the best in her future endeavors.

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."

Sir Winston Churchill, Former British Prime Minister

Getting to Know APHA

By Jeanie Holt

The Law Section is home to the full spectrum of people interested in public health law. Many of the section’s members are health care attorneys who work on issues related to access to care, Medicaid and Medicare, and legal issues in the health care system. Many others focus on “classic public health law”: how law can impact health. For example, when researchers identify a connection between a social context and the health of folks living in that context, public health lawyers consider what legal mechanisms could address that context. Elizabeth Geltman from the Law Section comments, “health problems often have both legal solutions and engineering solutions.”

Another interest of members of the Section is finding ways to measure the effectiveness of law and policy in addressing health problems. This developing field is called legal epidemiology – a systemic and scientific way of evaluating the impact of law and policy on public health.

The Law Section has two collaboration initiatives that the International Health Section and its members could find useful. First, according to Elizabeth Geltman, writing a proposed policy statement “is not much different from writing a legal brief.” Members of the Law Section can help IH Section understand how law can help the problem a proposed policy seeks to address. Geltman points out the difference between “international law,” that is laws established by treaties between nations, and what she calls “private international law,” the voluntary agreements or decisions made by multinational corporations and NGOs. Often the private agreements are more effective to impact health than treaty law. For example, the Paris Climate Agreement not only hasn’t been ratified by the US, but can’t be effectively enforced to impact climate related health issues. A multinational corporation adopting a green procurement policy or making a commitment to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions may be as effective in reducing volume of carbon emissions as treaties between small countries. The Law Section can help the International Health Section to frame actions in proposed policies to take advantage of both kinds of law.

In addition, the Law Section can help in writing proposed policies is with “wordsmithing” the tone of the policy. Lawyers in general are consummate word experts who can help cut through jargon and shape the way ideas are presented to different target audiences. Developing tailored messages to the discreet audience aids in advancing discussion.

A second way the Law Section can help the International Health is with advocacy work APHA staff undertake on Capitol Hill. When IH wants action on international or United Nations issues, the Law Section can help IH Section members to craft testimony and talking points for APHA staff. Providing a “script” for our Government Relations staff makes it easier for them to advocate on behalf of matters important to the IH Section.

Notes from the field

Featuring: dallas smith

A Student Who Understands the True Value of a College Education

My name is Chandra Sekar, and I am a Professor of Pharmacy at the University of Findlay, Ohio, USA. One of the joys of my profession is the opportunity for sustained interaction with young people who are trying to identify their passion and careers in life. Here I wish to share the story of one such individual who, by making remarkable contributions to the care of patients and communities both locally and internationally, has demonstrated the true value of a college education and the potential of the pharmacy profession.

Dallas Smith

Dallas Smith grew up in rural farming community in Ohio with two siblings. He joined the University of Findlay in 2011 to pursue the Doctor of Pharmacy [Pharm D] program. I got to know him during his fourth year when he was in my cardiovascular system class. By the time I met him, he seems to have already learned the responsibilities of being a pharmacist – not just to dispense prescriptions to sick people, but to help prevent people from acquiring diseases in the first place. Dallas put this commitment to action in the community by organizing community health screenings, participating in the Findlay Ministerial Associations’ Backyard Mission Trips, and leading University of Findlay first-year students in their Orientation Day volunteer activity.

Most universities now require some sort of community engagement from their students, and many students fulfill that minimum requirement devoid of passion or enthusiasm, as though it were a box simply to be checked. Dallas served the local and international community way beyond what was required academically for his graduation. His passion for traveling internationally and his ability to transcend language and cultural barriers were evident to me as we traveled together to India in the winter of 2014 and summer of 2016. In my seven years of leading study abroad programs for the University of Findlay, he is the only student who has traveled to India with me twice.

Besides India, he has now traveled to Mexico, Haiti, Belize, Canada, Vietnam and Thailand –contributing physical labor when required and using his professional knowledge in improving the health of citizens of those countries. Thus it was not surprising when he told me last year, after he graduated in May of 2017, that he was taking a two-year volunteer position with Peace Corps in Cambodia as a community health educator. This further demonstrates a passion and commitment for the welfare of humanity that is exemplary, reflecting the mission statement of the University of Findlay – “to educate students for productive careers and meaningful lives.”

Dallas Smith with his host family in Kampot, Cambodia

In December of 2017, I invited Dallas Smith, Pharm D, to join me in India and share his experiences and convictions about what pharmacists can contribute to their community. During that visit, he inspired over six hundred students by sharing his life’s journey as a pharmacist. He is currently collaborating with Bangalore Baptist hospital in India on how well TB clinics are implementing WHO guidelines for TB treatment. I believed his visit would inspire the young pharmacists in the audience to explore what they could potentially do to contribute to the society’s betterment. He shared his current activities in Cambodia as a Peace Corps volunteer, including growth monitoring and disease tracking of the children in the rural community where he resides. He is also providing education on non-communicable disease to all members of that community and teaches English to about 200 students from 10th to 12th grade.

One main reason I am profiling Dr. Dallas Smith in this newsletter is that, in the US, pharmacists are still fighting to gain provider status and get reimbursed for their services. I want society and governmental agencies at all levels to recognize that pharmacy is a healthcare profession and can play an important role in improving both the quality of life and cost of care in the US. I also want pharmacists to get more involved in public heath discussions in the country and join public health organizations that are primarily involved in achieving that goal.

explore ih connect

By Jean Armas

Happy spring from the Communications Committee!

We are delighted to welcome our Social Media Managers in Training to the team: Christa Marie Cook and Cherrelle Dorelans to assist our Social Media Manager, Sophia Anyatonwu. In addition to our blog, our Facebook and Twitter accounts are updated almost daily with links on news articles and opinion pieces we are reading, jobs and internships (#IHJobBoard), as well as education and training opportunities. If you haven’t already, we encourage you to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and follow our blog to get IH Connect content delivered directly to you via e-mail.

Section Announcements

Some of the exciting things that have been happening in APHA and our Section:

Stand up for gun violence prevention with a few actions you can take in the coming week

A message from our chair on International Women’s Day

Learn more about what’s happening in APHA and our Section here.

Analysis and Commentary by Section Bloggers

The latest opinions and insights from our regular contributors:

Maternal Mortality in the United States: A More Comprehensive Picture to Advocate for Changes that Save Lives by Sophia Anyatonwu

Achieving health equity in global health through workforce diversity by Jean Armas

Access to PrEP under NHS England: My trip to London by Kimberly Levitt

World TB Day 2018 by Abbhi Rajagopal

News Round-Ups

Our bi-weekly news round-ups provide readers with a glimpse of what’s happening in the global health world in the areas of politics, technology, environmental health, maternal and child health, human rights and more.

March 21, 2018 News Round-up

March 7, 2018 News Round-up

Read our past news round-ups here.

Interested in volunteering with us?

IH Connect is run by a dedicated group of IH section volunteers. If you would like more information about volunteering as a guest blogger, a regular blog contributor, or a special projects volunteer, please contact us at ihsection.communications@gmail.com or click here.

"Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care."

Theodore Roosevelt, Former President of the United States

IH Conversations

Featuring: Laura arntson

By Shazie Senen

I had the privilege of interviewing Laura Arntson, who, interestingly enough, started her career in music then turned to folklore and ethnomusicology before turning to public health. Throughout the years, she has accumulated a wealth of global health experiences with 8+ years in the field and 19 years working in global health. Arntson is currently working towards her second PhD.

Laura Arntson

1. Transitioning to a new career is a huge step. What prompted the career change to global health?

While I have always been into music, I found that I wanted to ask questions about why people do what they do? How do they explain how they do things? Then I discovered the ethnomusicology PhD program at Indiana University in the folklore department. In my first week at Indiana, my advisor asked me to choose an area of focus. I had been interested in Turkish zurna music, but I didn’t know if I that’s where I wanted to do research. I learned that Indiana had a strong African studies program, so I decided to focus on West Africa.

From left to right: Laura typing up field notes in Kabala, Sierra Leone, 1988; Hauling water (a daily chore) in Douako, Republic of Guinea, 1994; In Sangana, Guinea, 1994

What sparked my desire in global health was when I was doing post-doctoral research in Guinea and met a Liberian refugee family. Getting to know them inspired me to ask myself, "What am I doing? Am I doing any good in the world?” I started looking at degrees from economics to public policy. A colleague suggested public health. I was applying to graduate school around the same time I was applying to the Peace Corps and decided on Tulane School of Public Health, where I finished the International Health and Development MPH program and completed an internship in Mali.

After working in the field of international health and development for 18 years, I decided to do a second PhD, and discovered Oregon State University’s PhD in Global Health. I am part of the first cohort in the Global Health program. I knew I wanted specific skills, to pursue more research, and continue to build my evaluation skills, while having the luxury of reading theoretical research and writing for publication. As a graduate student in a PhD program, I get to teach part-time also. The career switch basically happened in Guinea, and it has been such a good investment.

2. For anyone considering a similar transition, what advice would you give to help them prepare?

I enjoy mentoring, and I would say first go with your interests. Do not compare your style or approach to others in the field. Think about who you are. Also, start collecting job ads and think of positions you want to apply for in the next 5-10 years. By reading job ads, you learn to read between the lines (What are they looking for in a candidate? What skills do you want to acquire?). Find ways to build those skills in every job. For example, working as an insurance billing clerk, I learned how to organize files. You can even build skills as a barista. Collecting job ads will also help you learn how to describe your experiences and to read across jobs and not just within jobs. Follow your passion and go with what best fits with your personality. If you’re interested in behind-the-scenes, consider monitoring and evaluation. If you like research, consider needs assessment, evaluation research, or program design. If you’re interested in a more hands-on approach in the field, there are positions working with implementing partners in the field. Your career is built on an assortment of experiences. You do not just step into a career. There is no rule book that says you can’t change careers.

3. For someone looking into global health, how do you deal with the demands of this field (i.e. relocating or having to acclimate frequently)?

It is not just something you resolve. Someone has to give something up and usually, it is the "trailing spouse." There are women in the field with husbands as their trailing spouses and same goes for men with wives as trailing spouses. Balance can get hard at times. The challenge is also accumulating things. You do not always want to let go of your stuff, but you realize at the end of the day, it is just stuff. You take life with you wherever you go. It does not have to be grounded in one place. What gets me through is my desire to keep working in public health across cultures. I am always thinking about my next field positions even when I am out in the field. There really is no easy answer.

From left to right: With colleagues at Helen Keller, International, Bamako, Mali, 2000; In Sibi, Mali 2000

4. What is your favorite part about working in the global health field?

I would love to say traveling, although it can get pretty tiring at times. Being able to work with different types of people - whether it is the locals, host government, NGOs, etc.. I enjoy working at all levels—from host government staff to market women. I love engaging with people and working with them. That is another reason why I’m pursing another PhD— I want to teach part-time, do cool research part-time, and do evaluation consulting part time. You also don't just have to stay with one organization. Pushing boundaries allows you to maximize your potential. You can always keep learning especially with the high demand.

5. Any words of wisdom for future global health leaders?

Don’t forget WHY we do what we do and who we are doing it for (our beneficiaries). We are not doing something to merely keep busy. Ideally, we SHOULD be getting ourselves out of this job. There are so many "cowboys" who don't value taking time to find out what people need. Make sure to know and acknowledge the culture. I remember seeing an old man in Kissidougou, Guinea, and everyone kept passing by him not acknowledging him. In the local culture, it is important to greet the elderly, so when I greeted him, he was extremely delighted. It is the little things that really define your work in global health.

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Background photo credits, in order:

2016 Girdhari Bora/SIFPSA mSehat, Courtesy of Photoshare; 2016 Moussa Ndour/VectorWorks, Courtesy of Photoshare; 2016 Alfredo Fort, Courtesy of Photoshare; 2007 Bill Lay Yan Piau, Courtesy of Photoshare; 2014 Deborah Payne/MedWater, Courtesy of Photoshare; 2007 Amynah Janmohamad, Courtesy of Photshare; 2013 George N. Obanyi/FHI360, Courtesy of Photoshare; 2013 Proud Pakistan NGO Balochistan, Courtesy of Photoshare

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