Global Health Major Spends Senior Research Practicum at WHO Office in India
September 4, 2019 – Sara Rotenberg (NHS’20) is a senior global health major at the School of Nursing & Health Studies. This semester, she is completing the 12-credit research practicum abroad, a signature feature of the Department of International Health’s undergraduate curriculum, at the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for South-East Asia in New Delhi, India.
Question: Where did you grow up, and how did you discover Georgetown?
Rotenberg: I grew up in Toronto, Canada, and I discovered Georgetown as I was exploring returning back to North America after studying at Yale-NUS College in Singapore. Georgetown’s global focus, emphasis on practical training, and world-class faculty made it the ideal place to transfer to in order to pursue my passion for global health.
Question: What are you working on this semester in India?
Rotenberg: I am Georgetown’s first intern at the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for South-East Asia (SEARO) in New Delhi. My job is to support the regional advisor for service delivery systems in the Health Systems Development Unit in two projects. First, I have helped to finalize ‘fit-for-service’ dashboards that display data related to achieving safe, quality health care for the 11 member states. Second, I am compiling a set of indicators to create country profiles on gender, equity, and human rights-related barriers to health care. These two projects share a common goal, however: to promote and improve safety, quality, and equity across health systems in Southeast Asia.
Prior to starting at WHO, I spent the summer working on two projects in India. The first sought to examine the inaccessibility of the transit systems and suggest tangible ways of improving accessibility on these systems, in the hopes that it can help create more economic opportunity for persons with disabilities. While the paper is being edited for publication, I have been invited to speak to the Mumbai Metropolitan Development Authority, the Mumbai Metropolitan Rail Corporation, and an architectural college in New Delhi to share the importance of universal design and my findings. Secondly, I have been working to develop a transportable, collapsible stool to provide a more user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing mobility device for persons with disabilities and mobility challenges. I have just finalized the prototype, so it should be heading to market in the coming weeks.
Question: How have you enjoyed Georgetown and the global health major?
Rotenberg: Georgetown has provided me with numerous opportunities both inside and outside the classroom. Being in Washington, DC, I have had many practical experiences to explore my passion for global health. For example, I have been able to work with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to develop an equitable access policy to ensure their successful investments in epidemic vaccines can be distributed to the people who need it first, without a prohibitive cost. Additionally, as part of my internship at the Embassy of Canada to the United States, I got to attend the World Bank spring meetings—all while going to school because of Georgetown’s close proximity to these critical institutions in global health.
A highlight of the global health major has been the expertise of the professors. Many come from extensive careers at international organizations or in fieldwork and research, which they are then able to bring into the classroom. I have found this to be a really enriching experience, and it has introduced me to new organizations or possible careers in global health.
Question: Tell us a little bit about your time at Georgetown and your activities.
Rotenberg: Outside of the classroom, I am very involved in the Center for Social Justice’s Advisory Board for Student Organizations (CSJABSO), which oversees the 40+ social justice student organizations at Georgetown. Here, I help distribute funding and mentor student leaders on how to manage their organization, develop programming, and leadership skills. In addition, I helped to restart the Transfer Council this year and served as the programming chair to build community and east the transition for transfer students on-campus.
I have also been very involved in research through the Global Health and India Initiatives. As a global health fellow, I have worked with Dr. John F. May in the Department of International Health on finding synergies between rights-based population policies to improve the chances of capturing a demographic dividend in sub-Saharan Africa. Through the support of the Provost’s Office, we had the opportunity to attend the Population Association of America annual conference in Austin, Texas, to present the paper, and we are now in the process of preparing it for publication. With the Georgetown India Initiative, I took the studio class this year and got to write part of a report for the World Bank on irrigation governance reform in India. I also worked with the lab on examining the policies that have enabled the construction of the Mumbai Metro.
Question: What are you thinking about after Georgetown?
Rotenberg: Ultimately, I hope to work on disability inclusion and equity in international development. My time working on gender, equity, and human rights at SEARO has reaffirmed this, as the limited data on disability demonstrates the need for more research to create proactive, effective policy in this area. Therefore, I hope to both contribute to greater equity and inclusion for people with disabilities by working on disability policy and access issues in low- and middle-income countries and by continuing to create assistive technology.