Global Health Reveals my True Nature, Not my Third Culture. What drew me to this particular field is not merely my desire to travel the world as a result of growing up as a third culture kid but also my need to answer the call to reduce health disparities worldwide. In an increasingly globalized world, borders no longer restrict diseases.

DECLARATION of one’s major is an inevitable task common to any student following a liberal arts and sciences program. For some, it is – and most likely has been – crystal clear for a long time what major to pursue. For others, like me, panic emerges when confronted with this seemingly impossible decision. How am I, as a nineteen-year-old, expected to know what I want my future to hold? Lo and behold, after much deliberation, I have officially declared my major: Global Public Health.

Dr. Cindy Howard’s presentation slides introducing the field of Global Health sparked some self-reflection. Evidently, this decision reveals my true nature. What drew me to this particular field is not merely my desire to travel the world as a result of growing up as a third culture kid but also my need to answer the call to reduce health disparities worldwide. In an increasingly globalized world, borders no longer restrict diseases. Furthermore, the global has become local as two million people cross international borders daily (refugees, immigrants, and international travelers). As evidenced by the MDG, health is no longer a concern from a national scale, but the only way to progress is indeed through global partnerships.

Having been assigned a myriad of readings including, but not limited to, scientific studies, ethnographies, and meta-analyses, many of my professors claim that said readings describe research that was pivotal in gaining new, paradigm-shifting insights. Similarly, Dr. Jonathan Borak wrote a paper describing five “classic” papers in the realm of public health and epidemiology. In summary, the first article described nine criteria put forward by Hill (1965) that have significantly impacted how inferences of causality from observational studies hold weight. Second, Armitrage and Doll (1954) found that the relationship between age and mortality rates were exponential across various types of cancer, thus providing a foundation of the multistage theory of cancer. Needleman et al. (1979) discovered that “subclinical” lead exposures harms neurobehavioral functions and has a negative influence on school performance in first- and second-grade students in Boston area schools. Results have serious public health implications of what should be considered safe levels of lead exposure. Fourth, Ransom and Pope (1992) found a significant association between PM10 levels and absence rates at two local schools in Utah, providing more information regarding exposure limits for air pollution policies. And lastly, Slovic (1987) summarized a selection of social and cultural factors that influence the ways in which the general public perceive risks. Instead of using quantitative measures, it is important for pubic health practitioners lend to non-quantitative concerns of the general public, bridging the gap of risk valuation between “experts” and “lay persons.” These five articles, in my opinion, could serve to inspire public health students, like myself, as our future research can have important implications in the public health realm.

In the third year of my current study, I am required to write a capstone, an individual research project. Developing a bachelor thesis that exhibits high levels of creativity, rigorous inquiry, and professional production can be a daunting task. After reading Dr. Borak’s article, it appeared to me that timelessly relevant research need not be overly complicated. But rather, important contributions can amount from data that is already available, perceptive observations, and analytical skills exhibiting ingenuity and original ideas. Needleman et al.’s (1979) results, for example, challenged preconceived exposure levels. Similarly, Ransom and Pope (1992) conducted a “natural” experiment in which they took advantage of the closing of the mill for 13 months, providing a control period to study air contaminants. In order to aid the pursuit of knowledge, new and continuous research should be encouraged, as contradicting or groundbreaking conclusions lead to great advancements in the scientific community and challenge previously ascertained knowledge.

Dr. Borak’s and Dr. Howard’s readings have prompted introspection in the context of my current education and experience.  Global health matters and is a top priority in the global agenda. In such a broad and multidisciplinary field, the number of praiseworthy research articles is plentiful but more importantly the number of future articles that can be added to this list is endless.  I hope to fulfill my duty to add to this ever-increasing pool of scientific research as I go ahead with my academic career.

About the Author:

Lily van Bilsen is a second year student in Leiden University College The Hague pursuing a major in global health with a minor in international development.  Her diverse background has significantly influenced the tolerant and open-minded person that she is.  Lily has lived in numerous parts of the world including Bahrain, England, the US, the UAE, Egypt, Turkey, and currently the Netherlands.  As is evident, participating in volunteering, especially in the developing world, is of great importance to her.  She has volunteered with numerous organizations in Cameroon, Tanzania, and the Philippines ans is fluent in English, Dutch, and French.  Speaking of her passion in life, Lily says “My international upbringing and school career have instilled a passion for international development. In addition, I have a keen interest in global public health.”