Lewis & Clark’s Expedition to Global Health Equity

Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine

Ruth St. Fort, Team Captain

Ruth St. FortRuth was born in Boca Raton, FL, and raised in Delray Beach, FL to two proud Haitian immigrants. Her family has played an integral part in her passion for medicine and her desire to become a physician. She attended the University of Florida, where she received her Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and Cell Sciences. After a year of working at the hospital, she attended Morehouse School of Medicine, where she received her Master of Science in Medical Sciences. She is currently a medical student at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. She enjoys trying new food and traveling when her budget (i.e. her student loans) allows her to.

Ashley Clark, Team Member

Ashley ClarkAshley grew up in sunny Tustin, CA as the youngest of 6 children in a big blended family. She loved living in California for its fantastic weather, outdoor activities and its abundance of ethnic diversity. For a change in scenery, Ashley chose to attend Spelman College, an all Women’s Historically Black College, in Atlanta, GA for her undergraduate schooling and loved every minute in her new Southeastern environment. After graduating she moved north to Washington, D.C. where she attended Georgetown University for her Master’s Degree. After graduating, Ashley worked in clinical research at Georgetown and as a Medical Scribe in the Emergency Department of Howard University Hospital, a public hospital dedicated to serving underserved communities. Now a first year medical student at Boonshoft School of Medicine in Dayton, OH Ashley calls on her life and clinical experiences as she tackles her new medical school curriculum. Ashley loves hiking, swimming, and cooking. Her favorite dishes to prepare reflect her family’s Jamaican heritage and the many places she’s lived.

Ben Lewis, Team Member

Ben LewisBenjamin is from Norwalk, Ohio and is the son of Rev. Doug and Suzanne Lewis. Benjamin attended The University of Mount Union where he obtained a B.S. in biochemistry. He is a proud member of the class of 2023 at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine in Dayton, Ohio. When Ben is not studying you can find him spending time with his adorable labradoodle, Marley or with his family and friends. Although he is not certain on what area of medicine he wants to go in to, he is 100% certain that he will pursue his lifelong passion for global health medicine.

Laurie Thomas, Team Member

Laurie ThomasLaurie is a first year medical student at Wright State University, Boonshoft School of Medicine. Growing up in a Jamaican household allowed her the opportunity to appreciate differences in cultures, religions, healthcare, and languages. From a young age, she knew that whether she became a doctor, teacher, lawyer, or police officer, she would be intentional about making a global impact. During her matriculation at Howard University, she travelled to Ghana, Jamaica, and Mexico. Through each of these experiences, she was intentional in trying to understand the people, languages, and customs. This was done through a plethora of conversations and explorations as well as intentional integration. From these experiences, along with many others, she has broadened her view of different values, beliefs, and struggles. With this ever-broadening view, it is taken into each interaction and allows a better comprehension of why people may make certain decisions or how their culture and/or religion may impact their health care services.

Team Essay

The goal of global health volunteering is to help improve the lives and circumstances of people around the world. Research shows that poverty, lack of resources, lack of information, poor preparation, and other social determinants increase the probability of the spread of disease (Evans, 2001, Challenging Inequities in Health: From Ethics to Action). While health care workers are not called to reduce poverty, they are called to educate, aid in forming connections with resources, and help to prepare citizens for expected health outcomes.

It is the duty of US volunteers to empower communities and encourage community members to see their own strengths. Dr. Paul Farmer, the author of Toxic Charity, describes the negative outcomes that occur when volunteers fail to build relationships and walk alongside the people in the communities they seek to benefit. Volunteers must allow local community members and leaders to describe the needs so that the collaborated vision for the community reflects the wants and desires of the citizens.

Following this collaboration, volunteers should begin by setting short- and long-term goals for every 3-months and every 10-years. Examples of initiatives volunteers can introduce into global communities include: assisting in the establishment of a local/national insurance program, teaching how to efficiently finance health care facilities, and developing a national health training program that partners with local hospitals and communities to establish physicians in underserved communities. Training local established healthcare apprentices with experience in natural treatments who will work directly with a local physician can bridge the gap between community members opposed to western medicine with their traditional approach. In addition to educating healthcare providers, volunteers must help to educate multiple members of communities, resulting in trained individuals who can serve the patients’ needs after volunteers leave, otherwise the work will be short-lived. Every relationship formed with members of the local community who are educated in patient care will create long-lasting leaders, who will benefit health in communities around the world.

When analyzing successful companies or movements, there is one foundational similarity, unity. After consulting with community members, there are a number of ways to introduce and unify new and existing systems. Understanding that health is impacted by many facets, volunteers can choose to aide in establishing an interdisciplinary network involving local education systems, religious/spiritual organizations, mental health care facilities, and local governments (when applicable). This unified approach will cause a shift of focus towards the community cultivating their own change. Through this network, preventative and treatable health education will become more common in the community and will ensure communication with the intention of unity.

While there are a myriad of ways to create lasting change in global communities, many effective methods can create positive lasting outcomes. To successfully enact change, US volunteers are to be mindful of cultural norms and must recognize and respect the strengths and traditions of the local communities. Volunteers must first seek to understand the needs of the people they will assist before introducing new healthcare to ensure a positive lasting impact.