My dearly beloved late mother desired that I should become a medical doctor. As it were, I gravitated to computers instead. In my short professional career, I have found my place using computers — and information systems — to improve health outcomes. From the linux based African access point, to becoming part of the Uganda EMR Society, I have marveled at the way information technology is utilized in the Ugandan health system. Suffice it to say, progress has been slower than my liking. But that’s another story.
When I realised I would not attend medical school, I decided that I would pursue something closely connected. A computer science graduate, my work experience experience has spanned Netmark Nigeria household surveys to telling the story of pediatric HIV in Uganda. Along this journey, my colleagues have included architects, designers, communications specialists, and data scientists, to name a few.
My willingness to open up and use my computing background in the health sector has brought me to the sweet spot in-between: health informatics. But it took participating in programs like Global Health Corps (GHC) to give my education an experience like no other. I had to be in the gutter of health care, to see and understand challenges for myself and to craft the path for how I would shape health outcomes in my community.
The GHC community boasts more than 800 leaders. What is its secret sauce? Interdisciplinary diversity. Health, not just informatics, is interdisciplinary, and we all need to work to achieve health equity. We need drivers who understand the value of cold-chain to be able to bring their best minds to the logistics of vaccine delivery to the utmost ends of the earth. We need architects to re-design healthcare facilities to minimize the risk of infection while ushering in the healing balm of nature’s best ingredients. And we need data scientists who understand that the devil is in the details.
Health, not just informatics, is interdisciplinary, and we all need to work to achieve health equity. We need drivers who understand the value of cold-chain to be able to bring their best minds to the logistics of vaccine delivery to the utmost ends of the earth. We need architects to re-design healthcare facilities to minimize the risk of infection while ushering in the healing balm of nature’s best ingredients. And we need data scientists who understand that the devil is in the details.
When the GHC fellowship placed me in the midst of work on pediatric HIV in Uganda, I started to see how a whole ecosystem should operate in order for us to achieve an AIDS-free generation. I started to see how supply chain affects adherence. I heard stories of school boys who navigated significant stigmatization to stand in line at a health facility and get their medication. Most of all, I started to put faces to the numbers in the well articulated reports, even understanding the role of a journalist in the fight against HIV/AIDS. My fellowship was not just a job, or a position — it was an experience that my education greatly needed.
When we think of hiring a great individual, we tend to look out for three things — education, a set of experiences, and their networks. An education helps you grasp the basics of the subject matter. Your network tells me about where you go to sharpen your iron. Experiences, however, are the real goldmine in a candidate likely to succeed. I refer to a multitude of experiences, not just work experience, because no single discipline can lay claim to the full scope of one’s knowledge and experiences. Great candidates span more than one sphere, more than one subject matter, and more than one experience. For example, a teacher has got to be a strong communicator, not just knowledgeable on his or her subject matter. It is rare to find a profession for which a single dimension of knowledge or experiences is enough to make one into an exceptional candidate.
What experiences do you need to give your education? The Global Health Corps fellowship can give your education an experience like no other.
Brian Ssenoga is the Uganda Alumni Program Support at Global Health Corps, and was a 2013–2014 fellow at the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation Uganda. All GHC fellows, partners, and supporters are united in a common belief: health is a human right. There is a role for everyone in the movement for health equity. Join the movement today — applications for our 2018–2019 class are open until January 17.