Global Health Residents Seek to Eliminate Health Disparities in the US and Internationally
Debbie Ungar Mar 20, 2022
The newest cohort of Indiana University (IU) School of Medicine residents selected for the Interdepartmental Global Health Residency Track brings an array of life experiences and interests, while also sharing a commitment to improving health equity in the US and around the world.
For more than a decade, the global health track, led by the IU Center for Global Health (IUCGH), has helped medical residents from a variety of specialties better understand the social determinants of health including the economic, cultural and environmental factors that contribute to health and disease.
The 77 residents in the global health track meet quarterly to learn about global health issues and receive mentorship from IU faculty members with global health experience. Each completes either an international field elective or local-global health rotation as well as a scholarly project. Many of the scholarly efforts will be showcased at the upcoming Global Health Scholars Day on May 5.
Jenny Baenziger, MD, associate director of education for the IUCGH, is the coordinator of the global health track. She says that the awareness of domestic health inequities has increased during the pandemic, not only among track participants, but also among the public. “Disparities in care occur, not only between high, middle and low-income countries, but also between communities in our own city,” said Dr. Baenziger. “The knowledge and experience that the global health residents receive through this track will make them better doctors and advocates for underserved communities wherever they eventually practice,” she added.
Research examining the impact of IU’s long-standing AMPATH Kenya partnership showed that “Many years out of training, global health elective participants were more likely to be generalists working with underserved populations, to be cost-conscious in their healthcare decision-making, and to be involved in global health, public health or public policy.”
“I was first drawn to global health because of the inequities in access to care I saw in my own rural Kentucky upbringing,” recalls Charles Shofner, MD, a combined internal medicine and pediatrics (med-peds) resident who hopes to make global health a cornerstone of his career and life. “When my family members’ health declined, it often meant hours traveling and progressively worsening symptoms as we waited months for the specialist appointment. While participating in two short-term experiences in global health in Ecuador and South Africa, I heard similar stories of waiting months or traveling across country borders for providers and medications. As my world view expanded speaking with these families, I realized that diseases do not stop at international borders, but access to care often does. These borders similarly exist in the rural knobs of Kentucky and the city streets of Indianapolis,” he continued.
IU’s global health initiatives have a specific focus on reciprocal innovation, the bi-directional and iterative exchange of a technology, methodology, or process between at least two countries to address a common health challenge and provide mutual benefit to both sides. Lessons learned are continually shared throughout the process to suit the needs and infrastructure of each country.
During medical school, Gretchen Goble, MD, worked with families new to the U.S. and the opportunity to continue this type of work and also have a global field experience drew her to IU School of Medicine. “I have served patients who have recently arrived to America, many of which have very limited medical insurance. I have now been able to see first-hand how this limits their medical care, and how imperative it is to use and expand on my skills when typical testing and imaging may not be feasible,” she said. “I am passionate about improving our medical system to better serve our global patients. I believe that the first step in doing this is educating myself in world news, history, economics, and unique infectious and environmental exposures provided by the global health track curriculum. The educational opportunities paired with mentorship and field experience would help me become a global physician, while in the U.S. and beyond.”
Global Health Track residents inducted spring 2022:
• Oluwatobiloba Adenuga (Family medicine—IU Arnett)
• Grace Arias (Med-peds)
• Mishaal Ather (Pediatrics)
• George Bistees (Internal medicine)
• Grant Callen (Pediatrics)
• Gretchen Goble (Med-peds)
• Emily Hentz (Med-peds)
• Katherine Klemkosky (Pediatrics)
• Komal Kumar (OBGYN)
• Ashley Maveddat (Internal medicine)
• Kemi Ogunmuko (OBGYN)
• Hayley Sharma (Med-peds)
• Charles Shofner (Med-peds)
• Gabriella Shofner (Family medicine)
• Corinne Thornton (Med-peds)
• Sarah Yates (Internal medicine)
Applications for the track are accepted each year in January. For more information contact Dr. Baenziger.
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