Alumni tackle global health issues in international settings

Fri, 2010-06-18 02:41 pm

Grinnell is known for graduating students with a strong sense of social justice—in fact, one part of the mission of Grinnell is to graduate women and men who “work to use their knowledge and their abilities to serve the common good.” Three Grinnell alumni, all focusing on public and international health issues as well as patient care, enrolled at the Medical School for International Health (MSIH) at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva, Israel. Megan Straughan ’07, Corrine Hamvas ’03, and Brian Crabtree ’05 chose MSIH for its unique curriculum that emphasizes not only direct patient care, but also the role of community education in preventing disease. In addition to the standard American-style medical education, students take courses in global health, preventive medicine, and cross-cultural interactions. During their fourth year, they spend seven weeks working abroad in a developing country. “Global health is a wonderful mix of education and medicine,” says Straughan. “So much of global health is public health and involves utilizing smart educational programs to prevent disease, as well as the nitty-gritty of seeing patients one-on-one.” For Hamvas, MSIH’s location in Israel was also a factor. She spent a month in Israel on a volunteer trip while a Grinnell student. “Beer Sheva is certainly a melting pot of cultures, so in the third year we are working with so many different communities,” Hamvas says. “The struggles that we face daily in communication and cultural beliefs certainly make us stronger and more patient and compassionate doctors.” Crabtree noted that the Grinnell alumni have been especially active at MSIH. He ran a used medical book store for the student body, and organized several review projects and study groups. Hamvas started a group for students to socialize over home-cooked international cuisine. Straughan served as the volunteer coordinator for the school and has packaged meals for the elderly and taught English conversation classes for Bedouin girls in a nearby village. “Our school is still new and there are always problems,” Crabtree says. “A lot of people tend to respond to those problems by complaining or running to the administration for solutions. But the Grinnellians tend to build student-led solutions.” All three alumni continue to be interested in public health, both in the United States or abroad, and hope to carry their international education into their future practices. “Grinnell fostered intellectual curiosity in me, particularly around the scientific method,” says Straughan. “At the same time, my four years at Grinnell instilled in me a sense of activism and concern for others. That commitment to social justice is the cornerstone of global health.”