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Liberal Arts + An Introduction to the Global Health Initiative

SPANDAN JOSHI ’22 | STAFF WRITER • Everyone on campus has heard of the Global Health Initiative time and time again. Yet, it seems that only those associated with the program really know what it stands for, or, in a much simpler sense, what it actually does. To provide an insight into the activities and the goals of this program, we inter- viewed Eric Wetzel, Director of the GHI and Norman Treves Professor of Biology, Jill Rogers, Coordinator of the GHI and Pre-Health advisor, and an active student member, Joey Lenkey ‘19.

“We’re trying to knock down the perception that GHI is only for pre-health or pre-med students,” Wetzel said. “It is a classic liberal arts, multidisciplinary collection of activities that not only deals with clinical issues but also deals with social and ethical issues.”

“It’s hard to think of a major or field at Wabash that wouldn’t connect to the GHI and public health in general,” Rogers said. “We need students from all other fields who know how to scale up an idea and make something happen by taking an initiative. We’d like
to have students not just from the medical track but having other skill sets and abilities as well.”

Wetzel believes that the program is for all students who want to make a difference in the community. “We deal with factors like the social determinants of health, that are essentially non-clinical things,” Wetzel said. “All of the issues that we deal with involve people. It’s not just some entity without a face

who needs the help, it’s a person we interact with.”

The primary goal of the GHI is to better the lives of people who are in need of help, no matter the magnitude. They are heavily involved with organizations in
the community that facilitate the availability of health care to people who are deprived of it. “The activities revolve around the community,” Lenkey said
when asked about the activities of the GHI. “For instance, you could connect with a Spanish translator at a nearby clinic and help them communicate between the nurses and the local Hispanic population. In my case, I work
at Half Way Home, which is a sober living facility for women overcoming opioid abuse. There, I don’t prescribe medications or do anything of that sort. I just drive them from place to place, transportation is my job. It may not seem like much but not everyone there has cars and some have been to jail, which prevents them from having a driver’s license.”

Aside from being an excellent way to interact with the local community and helping those in need, Wetzel and Rogers believe that the program serves as a great platform for students to hone their professional skills. These can be applicable
later in their careers, irrespective
of their fields. “It helps students develop traditional soft skills
such as communication, project management, data management, analysis, marketing, and systems thinking,” Wetzel said. “One of the things that students often talk about is how their internships or other work experiences associated with the GHI complicate their views on certain problems and allow them to navigate the complexity of these problems to come up with a solution, which is an important skill to have.”

Rogers also emphasized debunking the misconception that students must be officially recognized members to be considered a part of the program. “There’s this misconception that you have to be a ‘card carrying member’ to be considered a part of the GHI which is not the case,” Rogers said. “All the students who want to engage in opportunities that we have identified, working with the community and public health, are considered a part of it.” The GHI stands for the betterment of society. At the same time, they strive to ensure that the people involved in it benefit from its activities. This could be in the

form of an experience that you can reflect upon to get inspiration, or
a skill that you can put to good use to make yourself more efficient at your choice of work. Whether you are planning on becoming a doctor or a marketing officer, if you want to make a difference in the lives of those who appreciate your help and get an experience out of it, then GHI is for you.