Each year, graduate students at Vanderbilt demonstrate that global health isn’t just the realm of doctors and nurses. The work of improving health access and outcomes at home and around the world takes passionate practitioners working together across fields. For this reason, Vanderbilt’s interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Global Health program attracts graduate students from across campus to engage in joint training and explore the ways in which their respective fields intersect with public health.
This spring, seven graduating students will receive the Graduate Certificate, representing academic programs in international education, economic development, biomedical engineering, community research and action, and medicine. In addition to certifying coursework in Global Health, the Certificate demonstrates to peers, faculty, and future employers that students have a sustained commitment to solving community challenges with global relevance.
While Certificate holders often go on to work in international contexts, the program’s “global” emphasis encourages students to identify and address challenges that cross borders and span socioeconomic groups, including within the US. Through coursework that emphasizes research, group projects, and community partnerships, students in the Certificate program build skills relevant to a broad range of fields. By the end of the program, students report that they gain greater awareness of the social and structural challenges that impact health - and the innovative thinking required to address these issues.
Graduate Frances Knight (PhD – Biomedical Engineering) is planning to pursue a career in public health, advocating for vaccine uptake. “The biggest lesson I've learned throughout my work in global health, which was reinforced by the courses I took for the certificate, is the fundamental recognition that global health is often not about developing new, "cutting-edge" technologies, but about taking existing technologies that are too expensive or inaccessible to populations in need, and figuring out how to bring those technologies to the people who need them.”
Beyond coursework, students can count research and internship experiences abroad towards Certificate requirements. Hannah Carlile (M.Ed. International Education Policy and Management) completed a summer practicum experience with the Ministry of Education in Belize. “It's been an amazing process of seeing how global health and education and development all go hand in hand. I've heard it in class, and I've seen it in person on my summer practicum. I will never be able to ignore global health issues while [working in] education, especially in low-resource settings.” Medical student Didi Odinkemelu spent a summer working with nurse anesthetists in Liberia, and notes that one of her biggest lessons learned from pursuing the certificate was “the importance of building mutually beneficial partnerships across institutions, and constantly being aware of how power dynamics play into global health partnerships.”
These student experiences, combined with case studies from around the world and guest speakers from the field, help link theory and policy with the practice of Global Health across disciplines. Dr. Troy Moon, who teaches an introductory overview course in Global Health, says “this course has been a wonderful place where students across a wide variety of disciplines can come together and critically think through the challenges and successes of today´s global health initiatives. As recent events have shown, global health is not just a discipline dependent on those in health-related fields.”
As COVID-19 changes the way communities work, study, and plan for the future, the class of 2020 has been made acutely aware of the ways in which global health challenges touch every part of our lives. The Graduate Certificate in Global Health uniquely prepares students across disciplines to take up the challenge.