Like for many, my interest in global health was born out of a combined interest in travel and medicine. I have been lucky to spend time in South Africa, first in the city of Durban where I lived for a year before medical school helping to conduct HIV research at a semi-private hospital; then in the small, rural village of Zithulele where I spent six weeks of my fourth year of medical school performing clinical duties at a government hospital. I was enriched by my experiences there. I learned (a little) about what it is like to practice medicine with limited resources. I gained (a lot of) respect and appreciation for the lives of those who have much less than I do. I made close friends who I will have for life.
But it was not until my recent trip to India that I felt like I even began to scratch the surface of the global health world. Perhaps for the first time, I was given the platform to think critically about topics like global inequality and foreign aid. I dared myself to consider uncomfortable thoughts like: did I really do any good in South Africa? Especially when I think about the time I spent there as a medical student, I fear the answer might be no. I might have even done harm by taking limited time and resources away from patients and local staff who were much more entrenched in their work and the community than I was.
As I go forward in my career and travels, I hope to keep and nurture my critical eye. I want to hold tight to the belief that it takes a whole lot more than just good intentions to effectively help others. Just like when I am on the wards here at BMC — first, do no harm.