After being accepted to the global health specialization, I had the opportunity to take various courses of which two helped guide my interest in public health. First, through the fundamentals of global health I was introduced to the concept of personomics, i.e. the susceptibility of disease and its treatment is affected by a combination of psychological, social, cultural, behavioral and economic factors. My past perception of treating a patient involved understanding the pathophysiology of the disease and finding a medical solution to it. However, this was challenged the very first day of class when we tried to define the term “disease.” It was interesting to see the blurred lines between what individuals thought was diseases and what was not. This was the first taste of the realization that one’s understanding of a disease is heavily dependent on their sociocultural environment. It would hence become evident that physicians would have to ascertain the effects of a variety of factors before arriving at a diagnosis or determining the root cause of the problem. Consequently, in treating the patients, physicians would need to have a broad understanding of more than just their biology.
At the micro-scale, learning about the sociocultural determinants of health steered my interest and at the macro-scale, I learned about health systems through a course on health policy. The course was structured to expose students to two different health systems i.e. Canadian and Australian. Our assignments guided us through the process of creating a policy, presenting it to different levels of government and finally a full-class debate to choose amongst competing policy ideas. We also learned about health systems as a whole, how healthcare is different from other goods and services, how governments have responded to these differences, how governments make decisions about healthcare in different health systems, and how governments are dealing with current healthcare challenges in different health systems. I realized that to create lasting impact, systemic change through levels of government is necessary. Through this course, I was also introduced to the role of physicians as health advocates and wanted to further explore public health through the policy lens as well.
These courses prompted me to pursue opportunities within public health, that would help me navigate the field and potential career opportunities.