“So, you seem to be thoroughly enjoying the Australian culture and studying a lot. Do you do anything else?”
A good question. The answer (fortunately) is yes. I’ve been working on a couple of volunteer projects to gain public health experience. Rotary has allowed me to get involved with Rotary Oceania Medical Aid for Children (ROMAC). ROMAC brings children from surrounding low income countries to Australia and New Zealand to receive life-saving and dignity-restoring surgeries not available in their home countries. My current project has focused on analyzing the health system in the Solomon Islands to make strategic recommendations to further strengthen ROMAC’s work. I have really been enjoying this project, largely because of the opportunity to connect and build a global network.
Through a professor at the University of Sydney, I was connected to a professor and physician at San Diego State University in California. She then helped connect me to one of the pediatricians in the Solomon Islands. The ROMAC Director of Operations also helped connect me to a physician, so I was able to work on that network from two directions. Both of those physicians then helped further connect me to a network of doctors and nurses in the Solomon Islands, allowing me to ask questions to fill the gap in my research and to learn from the people on the ground. Who knows better? And what’s so exciting is that I now have this new network to continue to learn from!
I’ve also been working with Professor Bob Cumming at Sydney Uni on a South Sudan project. My volunteer time with Bob began in June with work to organize a week-long symposium for August that featured Dr. Samson Baba, the Director of Community and Public Health at the Ministry of Health in South Sudan, and Professor Aggrey Abate, Vice Chancellor of the University of Juba. I enjoy the logistics of a project and learned quite a bit from during the process, never having worked on a University Symposium before. I organized flights, hotels, insurance and event catering, plus a heap of other details.
I also coordinated visits with Sydney University staff across several days and with Canberra leaders for a day meeting with government officials. (For those from the United States, this is like arranging meetings with officials in Washington, DC.) What was most encouraging to me about the Canberra piece was that, as a student with no credentials to my name (yet!), I was able to set up these meetings and coordinate a very productive schedule for our visiting dignitaries. Our Thursday symposium, Australia’s Engagement with the World’s Newest Country – South Sudan, had over 120 registered participants and went off quite well.
Part of the trip’s purpose was to lay the groundwork for a discussion about future partnership with the University of Sydney and the University of Juba in developing a School of Public Health. This is thrilling to me, because these types of long-term public health projects are what really get me going and are what I envision for my future work in the field. I am thankful to have the opportunity to learn how a project like this starts and moves forward and to play even a small role in helping it progress. I’m currently researching curricula that will help shape the curriculum for future public health students in South Sudan. This is such an exciting project and I am looking forward to how it continues to grow!