In March, I signed an offer letter for a practicum position in Zambia, hoping to fulfill my bucket list item of moving to Africa. The day after I signed that letter, the announcement came that international travel would be prohibited for the summer of 2020. My goal is to attend medical school after earning my MPHand to then focus on surgery/oncology, so the position tending to women with gynecological malignancies at the Cancer Diseases Hospital in Lusaka was the perfect fit. I was anticipating a personalized internship in which I could follow patients throughout their treatment process, and work on the multidisciplinary team to implement an online dashboard system to better track patient progress. I am now doing all of this…from the comfort of my living room. The issue is, I didn’t want comfort. I decided to get my MPH at UNC specifically for the hands on practicum experience, but the world had other plans.

Throughout this process I am learning that the interconnectivity of the world due to globalization and technology allows global work to happen locally. It is quite amazing how a girl in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in the USA can be reporting the status of a patient about 8,000 miles away. These circumstances make me wonder about the future of global health, though. Will we be more inclined to take a comfortable seat in our living room directing the work of others across the globe? I believe there is inherent value in traveling to the locations and communities you mean to serve. It is necessary to do so to learn their genuine wants and needs instead of being holed up in the American South telling them what they should want and need. I believe this is an attribute of being a global citizen, one whose care is not restrained by national borders. It is my hope that this pandemic shows us how interdependent many countries are, especially with regards to public health and disease.

Through my work for the Zambian hospitals thus far, I have seen an example of a team of doctors who have a goal of following through, not letting patients slip through the cracks, efficiency, and executing quality medical care. It has impacted my career path because I am now affirmed that the job I have dreamed of since I was 16 is a reality. I plan to travel underserved communities to serve global populations by setting up a sustainable, efficient infrastructure and system of care. I am still grateful for the opportunities UNC has afforded me, even if they are remote.

Katerina