• Kelsey Bumsted

Global Health & a Photo Story From Viet Nam

Updated: Jul 28

One of the more empowering moments of my life occurred in April of 2014. I attended the Global Health & Innovation conference at Yale in hopes to network and understand the global public health arena that I passionately wanted to be involved with. I spent the week ferociously taking notes, reading academic posters, and following up with presenters. The very last presentation of the three day conference was a panel discussion with leaders in the field held in an auditorium with the title, “How to break into the global public health field.” 

The room was packed. Young adults lined the wall, sat on the floor, shared seats; everyone trying to understand how to break into such an elite club of professionals. I had the same question burning in my chest all week, one that I knew everyone wanted to ask- as young adults graduating with degrees, 'how do you apply to entry level jobs in global public health that require 5 years experience (when you cannot afford to donate thousands of dollars of your summers and years away to get the experience)?’ While one or two people per question was usually the typical response, everything was different this time. Anger welled up, finger pointing at the audience happened, assumptions were made on our intentions for pursuing our work, audience members were yelling right back... 

After what felt like twenty minutes of angry discussion, the session was abruptly cut off by the speaker for the panel discussion time going past it’s limit. After the session was adjourned, I politely waited in line to talk to one of the speakers. After speaking to him, I turned around to move over and make room for the line behind me- assuming it was for the man I was talking to- the person behind me touched my arm and told me, “No, wait! Are you the one who asked the question? I need to talk to you!” Five people were lined up behind me to hand me their business cards with opportunities, advice and assistance. One of those people was a doctor for a non-profit that had just started a new project in Viet nam. With an invitation to assist with their survey project, I gladly accepted and worked for the next year to study and develop a community assessment with others in the organization.

This experience taught me the incredible importance of speaking up, standing tall and persisting. Question norms and society. Be the one who steps out and make it awkward and heard. 

The next year I traveled out to Viet Nam with doctors and students to conduct the survey in a coastal village in the Mekong Delta. I was unable to speak the language but used the emotions that I witnessed to photograph and feel better connected to the circumstances happening around me. We spent ten days in the village, eating gracious meals on the floors houses, playing with the kids and motorbiking through rice fields. The survey mainly dealt with health behaviors of those diagnosed with hypertension which required more than just a survey but testing and prescription reviews. The experience was one of the first tastes I had of what to expect in the Peace Corps.


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