NASHVILLE, Tenn. For Muna Muday, being a doctor isn’t enough.
“I want to work domestically and internationally,” she said. “I feel like these two cannot be away from each other.”
Her passion is learning how to develop programs that improve public health, and she hopes to someday work with projects on a global scale for organizations like the World Health Organization and other international groups. Specifically, her interests lie with efforts advocating for health among women and children.
Muday’s family originally came from Somalia. Located on the Horn of Africa, it’s a land of flat plains and plateaus, cut in places by deep valleys. The Cal Madow mountain range stands in the northeast, while the Jubba and Shabele rivers flow south to the Indian Ocean.
It’s also a country that’s suffered years of violence and bloodshed. In 1991, the Somali Democratic Republic collapsed and civil war erupted. In the years to come, the death toll would reach roughly 500,000.
Today, that war is still ongoing.
Muday’s parents sought to escape in the early 90’s, fleeing southwest to Kenya. They found refuge there in Dadaab, site of a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees base hosting more than 235,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers.
Unfortunately, not everyone survived the journey.
“Two of my oldest siblings never made it,” Muday said. “They died of malnutrition.”
Strife brings inspiration
Muday was born shortly after her parents arrived at Dadaab Refugee Camp. Including her late siblings, she had six brothers and four sisters.
She would eventually relocate to Nashville in 2004, but it was her years in the camp that pushed her toward a career in public health.
“I grew up surrounded by problems,” she recalled. “Women and children died every day in the camp due to many preventable public health issues.”
Those tragedies served as both a painful and profound catalyst, fueling a desire to end such heartache wherever possible. Likewise, Muday found inspiration among the global health experts that visited the camp.
“I wanted to be like them,” she said. “I wanted to be a doctor, originally, but being a doctor is not enough there.”
Working to alleviate health disparity
Muday graduated from Strafford STEM Magnet High School in Nashville. From there, she went to Tennessee State University to earn a Bachelor of Science Degree in Health Studies, with a concentration in Public Health. She’s currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Public Health, with a focus on Global Health, at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
It was here that she began working in Community Engagement with the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance. Her efforts include contributions to the Community Health Worker Collaborative, something that resonates with her childhood experiences.
“One of the things I experienced in the camp was the impact of Community Health Workers,” she said. “Health disparity is not just something at the global level. It’s a local problem.”
She believes Nashville has many health disparities, and with her background, she can contribute to efforts alleviating them.
‘Local and global’
“My goal here is to hold with the initiatives of the Community Health Worker Collaborative,” Muda said. “To learn from these types of projects how to develop and implement local health disparity projects and initiatives.”
Her passion is learning how to develop programs that will improve public health in the wider population.
“Someday I want to go back and work in the refugee camps,” she said. “My mission is local and global.”
About the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance
Founded in 1999, the Alliance bridges the institutions of Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Its mission is to enrich learning and advance clinical research in three primary areas -- community engagement, interprofessional education and research -- by developing and supporting mutually beneficial partnerships between Meharry Medical College, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the communities they serve. Through community engagement, the Alliance serves a large community of stakeholders including surrounding universities and colleges, community organizations, faith-based outlets and community health centers. Its interprofessional education enhances students' interdisciplinary understanding and improves patient outcomes through integrated care. The research conducted provides access to experienced grant writers and materials supporting the grant application process and facilitates grant-writing workshops.