When I was growing up, my father would tell me a story about his childhood each night before bed. While family members later revealed these tales to be more apocryphal than true, this bedtime ritual fostered in me a love of storytelling.
So when it came time to choose my major in college, I gravitated to English. While I’ve encountered my fair share of humanities skeptics, the skills I gained through my studies have been invaluable in helping me make sense of the world. I believe literature can serve as a tool for bridging the gap between abstract ideas and concrete realities. As The Stanford Humanities Center defines it, the humanities are “the study of how people process and document the human experience.” I wanted to take this theoretical framework a step further –to not only understand the human experience, but to actively work to improve it.
In my Sociology of Health and Medicine course, the path from awareness to action clicked for me. As I inputted census data into GIS, I watched a map of health disparities unfold. Seeing how a person’s zip code weighed upon the health of their child, I palpably understood the social determinants of health. In this moment, I realized that data –like stories– have the power to make abstract concepts concrete. And, I began to see the synergy between data and stories: together, they could catalyze real change.
I also came to understand health as a critical leverage point in dismantling structural inequalities. One proactive health intervention, such as improving a child’s nutritional intake, could help break generational cycles of poverty –as that child could stay in school longer, become a more productive adult, and increase the standard of living for their children. Health, like a river, is shaped by all of its tributaries; pollution downstream cannot be addressed without first understanding the water’s course. I wanted to find a way to move upstream, to tackle social inequities at their source.
A year after graduating college, the Global Health Corps (GHC) Fellowship presented me an incredible opportunity to amplify my voice in the movement for health equity. GHC matches youth leaders from diverse, interdisciplinary backgrounds with high-impact health organizations in the U.S. and Africa, providing support and training throughout their fellowship year. I chose to spend my year as a communications associate for Evidence Action, because it offers a unique opportunity to blend my passion for storytelling with my interest in data-driven interventions. Evidence Action’s mission of bridging the gap between research and implementation at scale in global development aligned with my personal mission of applying my liberal arts education to measurably improve people’s lives.
One of the most compelling aspects of my position is that it allows me to highlight Evidence Action’s impact both at an individual level and at scale. Our Deworm the World Initiative supports governments in delivering deworming treatment to over 280 million children each year. This is an impressive number –and it is even more powerful when we demystify the people and processes behind this scale. There’s a diverse group of actors who play a part in mass deworming, from the government officials who plan the numerous steps involved to deliver deworming treatment, to the teachers who administer deworming drugs to their students. Each of these people –and the children they help treat– have a story to tell.
Yet, it is not my right to tell someone else’s story, so I wanted to share my own. My hope is that in reading this, you gain a better sense of what inspires me to show up at work each day. While I’ll admit I don’t have my path all mapped out, I am guided by my mission along the journey. And though, as a fellow, I’m not entitled to offer career advice, I encourage you to reflect on what your mission is.