Richard Skolnik – Author of Global Health 101
Students don’t just want to take Global Health courses…they also want internships and jobs in Global Health. If students and teachers are ‘lucky,’ then they may have access to advisory services on campus that have a good ‘feel’ for the Global Health field and good opportunities for internships and jobs in Global Health. Many advisory services, however, are staffed with people who do not know Global Health well and who lack good connections with organizations that can provide internships and jobs to their students and graduates.
As a Global Health practitioner who turned to teaching after retiring from 25 years at the World Bank, I have always enjoyed advising students about their future. This is so much fun for me, that I spend considerably more time at it than I have! In fact, the grad students at The George Washington University gave me an award many years ago for “that faculty who gives the best advice when asked, gives the best advice when you did not ask, and gives the best advice, even when you did not plan to ask.”
Given difficulty in ‘holding myself back’ and the constant demand of my students for advice, I decided to take a number of steps to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of my advising.
First, I added a career chapter to the second edition of Global Health 101, called “Working in Global Health.” This chapter reviews the many types of careers in Global Health, ways to think about the knowledge, skills and experience you will need to pursue them, and how you can prepare for a career in this field. Generally, the students I meet are not well informed about careers in Global Health, despite their strong desire to work in the field, and this chapter is meant to help them overcome that lack of knowledge. Whether they seek help from Global Health 101, or another source, students can often benefit substantially from advice about how to think about careers in Global Health.
In addition, I added a chapter to Global Health 101 called “Profiles of Global Health Actors.” This includes profiles of 18 people who work in Global Health, from various places in the world, and with varied backgrounds. Over the years, I have found that many students have some notion of how they want to work in Global Health, but not a well defined one. This is especially true for students who are not planning to be physicians. Of course, this should not be surprising. When I was their age, I knew all about Albert Schweitzer but had almost no knowledge of the campaign to eradicate smallpox and the public health heroes associated with that effort. This chapter is meant to give students a collection of possible ‘role models’ for their future career and it is always fun for me when students tell me that want to be just like someone in this chapter. There are also a small number of other sources where students can find profiles and biographies of people that they might want to emulate who work in Global Health.
The second edition of Global Health 101 also has an increasingly useful website that includes a section on opportunities for work and study abroad in the Global Health field. In the next few months, we will be adding to and updating that information.
When students come to see me for advice about careers and internships, especially undergraduate students with little experience in Global Health, I ask them before we meet to:
- Read Chapter 17 of Global Health 101, on working in Global Health
- Read Chapter 18 of Global Health 101, on profiles of Global Health actors
- Provide me with their updated resume
- Provide me with 5 lines about what they would like me to say in 10 to 15 years about their ‘impact on the world’
- Prepare the three most important questions that they would like me to help them answer
Taking this approach to advising students about internships and careers has greatly enhanced the efficiency and effectiveness of my meetings with students. It has helped such meetings to be focused and shorter, enabled me to avoid repeating the same information, and helped the students to be much better prepared for such meetings.
I often offer to introduce students to people I know. To facilitate this, I ask the students to draft a note from me to my friends, indicating:
- The student’s long-run professional aims
- How the opportunity to work with this person in the shorter run will help advance those aims
- The strengths of the student that make them a good fit with my friend’s work
Of course, they also have to attach a resume to this note.
The above approach saves me time, makes student references more accurate, and ensures that I can follow-up more rapidly than if I had to draft such a note.
It is not clear how long this surge of student interest in Global Health will go on. It is also not clear if the increasing number of students interested in Global Health will continue to be able to find jobs in this field. It is clear, however, that many students could use and appreciate thoughtful advice from experienced Global Health professionals about how to frame their professional interests, get internships in Global Health, identify role models and mentors, and find potential jobs.
Rachel Skolnik Light kindly provided comments on the draft of this blog.
Richard Skolnik is a Lecturer at the Yale School of Public Health, where he teaches global health courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Richard was previously an Instructor in Global Health at The George Washington University, the Vice President for International Programs at the Population Reference Bureau, and the Executive Director of the Harvard School of Public Health PEPFAR program. Richard worked at the World Bank from 1976 to 2001, last serving as the Director for Health and Education for South Asia. Richard is the author of Global Health 101 a comprehensive, introductory text on global health.