Nebraska Goes Global

University of Nebraska Medical Center

Rohan Khazanchi, Team Leader

Rohan just finished his first year of medical school at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. He graduated in 2017 from Washington University in St. Louis, where he developed an interest in health equity through international medical service work and local community activism/advocacy. At UNMC, he is a student in the Enhanced Medical Education Track for Comprehensive HIV Care, through which he will be conducting population health research on the social determinants of HIV treatment outcomes. His hobbies include hiking, jamming with his musically-oriented peers in their class band “T Cell & the Cytokines”, and proudly wearing his collection of colorful socks.

Olivia Sonderman, Team Member

Olivia grew up as far from global health issues as possible on a small farm in Nebraska. Her eyes were opened when her degree in Global Studies from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln took her to Argentina, China, Turkey, India and Spain on educational programs. These journeys sparked her interest in global health disparities and led to her enrolling in medical school at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, where she is currently a third-year student. At UNMC, she served as Co-President of the Student Delegates, a grassroots interprofessional student organization that educates students on legislation and advocacy at a local and federal level. She stays healthy and sane by eating chocolate every day, playing guitar, and writing with the medical student Burnout Club.

Laura Newton, Team Member

Laura is beginning her third year of medical school at the University of Nebraska Medical Center after graduating from St. Olaf College in Minnesota with majors in Anthropology/Sociology and Biology. She is a part of the Enhanced Medical Education Track for Underserved Healthcare, which immerses students in community partnerships and facilitates their research on social determinants of health. Outside of coursework, she enjoys gardening, baking pies, and playing Ultimate Frisbee.

Team Essay

For Olivia, it was a young woman in a clinic in Mumbai, India, who was restricted from attending school because of social taboos and biological constraints caused by her untreated epilepsy. For Rohan, it was a grandmother who needed a home visit from his medical team because her poorly managed diabetic neuropathy rendered her incapable of walking to the monthly clinics in her rural Honduran village. For Laura, it was a father at a clinic in Falmouth, Jamaica, forced to choose between paying for his diabetes medication or his children’s school books. As aspiring public health professionals, these experiences deepened our understanding that although health disparities manifest biologically, their etiologies lay embedded in a complex network in which social, economic, and structural inequalities constitute pathologic forces.

Informed by our preliminary exposures to social determinants of health, we recognize that addressing challenges posed by health inequity requires diligent evaluation of our efforts. In medicine, we ensure that our diagnostic and therapeutic approaches stem from best practices based on data from rigorous clinical trials. Moreover, we continuously re-examine these standards, comparing outcomes and complication rates to determine if what we do actually works. Interestingly, however, medical philanthropic programs often lack the same critical lens. How much greater an impact might we have if we critically examine the effectiveness of our service trips, medical missions, and other charitable efforts, and use our findings to implement the best approaches? A desire to do good for others led each of us to a career in medicine and an interest in global health; a desire to do the most good we can led us to “effective altruism”, a movement founded upon the principle of relying on evidence-based methods to achieve social good, delineated in William MacAskill’s Doing Good Better. Working alongside a data-driven organization like Timmy Global Health will provide us with an opportunity to not only witness social determinants in vivo, but also to gain a blueprint for how we might implement our own evidence-based, community-focused public health efforts in the future. We look forward to integrating this “effective altruism” lens with first-hand experience learning how a global health organization integrates medical service trips with local physician efforts and existing health system infrastructure.

In India, Honduras, and Jamaica, we each were exposed to the health inequities we will inherit as global health professionals. For Olivia, her motivation has shifted towards seeking a degree in Health Policy to construct legislation addressing health inequity. For Rohan, his interest has blossomed into integrating his basic science, clinical, and population health research skills to fill gaps in health disparities research literature. For Laura, her experience has solidified her goal to situate her clinical practice within a broader framework of sociopolitical advocacy as she works with vulnerable communities. With a deeper understanding of social determinants of health gained from an experience with Timmy Global Health, we hope to galvanize the pursuit of our goals to provide insightful, evidence-based care to our future patients and serve the global community.