Global Health Student, Rozhon Badiozamani, shares her experience attending the UC Global Health Institute/Consortium of Universities for Global Health (UCGHI/CUGH) Conference, an innovative, student-driven Satellite Session.
Hello! My name is Rozhon Badiozamani and I am currently a fourth-year Global Health major. I attended this conference as the only Student Ambassador from UCSD, and was joined by 16 other undergraduate and graduate students from across the UC system. My job was to attend session, be present and an active attendee throughout, and share my experience with my community. Although I’m not an expert, by any means, on how to be successful in global health, I’d like to share with you just a few things I learned from participating in such an engaging and eye-opening conference.
UCGHI stands for the University of California Global Health Institute. UCGHI incorporates all of the 10 University of California campus missions in training the next generation of global health leaders. CUGH stands for the Consortium of Universities for Global Health. CUGH is a much broader umbrella of all institutions, organizations, and groups of people that are dedicated to global health.
This year’s conference theme was “Bridging to a Sustainable Future in Global Health” and aimed to address the wide breadth of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations.
Medicine is not the (only) answer
After years of being conditioned to think that if you want to help people, you should go into medicine, I can finally see how there are so many other ways to help people. Medicine is great, and it saves lives, but so do policy and health economics – just in a different way. A doctor can’t necessarily manage a successful NGO or engineer the infrastructure for a fresh water pipeline in a rural part of El Salvador. Global health is interdisciplinary, and we should emphasize that by increasing the visibility of other career avenues that still contribute to the betterment of people’s’ lives in a meaningful way.
Find your passion – Once you’ve figured it out, explore your passion and wholeheartedly dedicate yourself to it. Once I changed my major from Human Biology (no disrespect, but evidently not the right fit for me) to Global Health, I found myself involved in countless organizations, volunteering for events, and attending office hours of current/past global health professors to simply have a conversation.
Know what resources you have – UCSD has myriad of incredibly talented, well-esteemed, and successful professors/faculty. Not only are they living and breathing reserves of knowledge, but they are specifically working at a university to openly share their wisdom to students. Even if they don’t have something to offer, they will definitely have a colleague or friend you can talk to. Have a conversation with as many people in your field as you can and you will most likely learn something new about yourself, your passions, and/or your career pursuits.
Ask questions and don’t limit yourself- you will always have something to learn. Even though I’ve studied gender inequality, and have experienced it first-hand as a young woman, I decided to check out the Gender Inequity session (led by a fellow undergraduate student, Emma Jackson!) I had the chance to hear other attendees speak about gender inequity from their perspectives, and was asked to think critically of how gender inequality is taught to all genders at a young age. I even made a friend who I’m now working with to start a program at UCSD that would bring the arts and fighting for gender equality together.
Get out there – Attending this conference was a fantastic way to get involved. Attending as a student ambassador especially helped me make lasting friendships and connections. For example, I stayed after a session on developing global health programs to talk more with members of the panel. Now I’m working on a self-proposed project with the executive director of a largely successful NGO, who happened to be on that panel.
A genuine approach to networking
The first session on Friday was not specifically about global health. Rather, Chelsea Dinsmore (Founder of Live Your Legend) led an interactive icebreaker to teach us all about the value of human interaction and personal relationships, and how to translate that into our careers (wherever they may take us). The exercises were awkward at first – being pushed to approach and embrace a complete stranger was quite the ice breaker. But her key points were that we need to actively listen, ask people what they do and why they do it, be genuine, and see everyone as a friend you just haven’t met yet. I’ll be the first to admit that it does sound cheesy, but she revealed some great pointers on how to really connect with people and make a lasting impression the next time you’re given a networking opportunity.
Shaping our futures
During the “Developing a Global Health major” session (which our very own faculty, Dr. Thomas Csordas, presented at!), I realized just how new the field of global health really is. Representatives from a number of schools, including Duke University, USC, ASU, and Georgetown, presented on their respective global health major programs. It was refreshing to see how various universities approached the major. For example, USC’s program offers either a B.S. or a B.A. in Global Health as options for those who are pre-med and those who aren’t. It was also great to see how much our own program has encouraged student involvement, like with Students for Global Health, Quarterly Conversations in Global Health, and Global Perspectives. Seeing how all the schools varied so much in the courses they required and their field experience opportunities revealed how the major is still developing across the nation. Nobody has it completely figured out, which means it’s a fantastic time to be a global health student. We have the power to shape our curricula and the career options we pursue. We are the global health leaders of tomorrow, after all.
P.S. A huge thank you to CUGH and UCGHI for the opportunity to be a Student Ambassador this year!