Iman Ibrahim
News Story

Global Health Student’s Interest in Migrant Health Motivated by Personal Experiences

(October 6, 2023) — Receiving the David F. Andretta Summer Research Fellowship gave Iman Ibrahim (H’24), a global health major with a minor in Arabic, the opportunity to spend five weeks in Turkey working on a project titled “Medicine and Migration: Understanding Operational and Social Challenges to Service Delivery and Healthcare Decision-Making for Syrian Migrants in Turkey.”

“My research question is largely inspired by my personal background,” Ibrahim said. “I live in central Florida but am Ethiopian, and growing up in both places, my own family’s story, and exposure to such different health care systems at such a young age largely informed my research topic and overall interest in health care accessibility, medical anthropology and refugee health in particular.”

The Bosphorus Bridge at sunset

Conducting research in Turkey helped Ibrahim narrow down the topics that interest her.

Joining undergraduates from the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Foreign Service and Georgetown University in Qatar, Ibrahim presented her findings at the Global Social Justice Research Symposium on September 22 in Arrupe Hall. The symposium was hosted by the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching & Service, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs, and the Center for Research & Fellowships.

Presenting her research at the symposium prompted Ibrahim to reflect on her journey.

“To prepare for the presentation, I had to take a step back and remind myself where I started and the steps I took to get to where I currently am, and for the first time understood how far I’ve been able to carry this topic,” she said. “I was also so amazed hearing the presentations of the other student researchers and seeing how much they’ve achieved.”

‘Challenging but Rewarding’

Ibrahim’s interest in medical anthropology was influenced by her grandmother, who lives in Ethiopia but returns to the United States every year to receive medical care that was less accessible in her home village.

The Hagia Sophia mosque with fountain and people in the foreground

Traveling between research sites gave Ibrahim the opportunity to see much of Istanbul. Pictured here is Hagia Sophia.

“I’ve accompanied her to doctor appointments both in Florida and in Harar, Ethiopia, and have always been incredibly intrigued by the different approaches to health care, both institutionally and in the differences when it comes to things like bedside manner and health communication,” Ibrahim said.

In Turkey, Ibrahim planned to connect with research participants through state-run migrant health centers and clinics, but changed plans to focus on interviewing representatives from NGOs after struggling with obstacles including language barriers and bureaucratic challenges.

“This was my first exposure to the field of research, and I can confidently say it was the most challenging but rewarding task I’ve ever done,” she said. “The flexibility and quick-thinking skills I gained from working with a fluctuating research process was incredibly valuable.”

Solidifying an Interest in Medical Anthropology

Conducting research in Turkey helped Ibrahim narrow down the topics that interest her. “I’ve always had a pretty strong idea of what subject areas matter to me, but have struggled deeply in terms of figuring out how I specifically want to engage with that field,” she said. “This past summer solidified my interest in medical anthropology as a field I hope to engage with professionally in my future career.”

In the semester ahead, Ibrahim plans to analyze the data she collected over the summer to include in her senior thesis. She hopes to continue studying global health after graduation and ultimately pursue a PhD.

“The Andretta Fellowship helped support my work in more ways than I could possibly articulate,” she said. “Being able to study a matter that is so important and have complete autonomy over how I do so as an undergraduate has been an immense privilege that I am beyond grateful for, and there would not have been a way I could have done it without the fellowship.”

Kat Zambon
GUMC Communications

Top Image: Global Health major Iman Ibrahim (H’24) (courtesy Iman Ibrahim)

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