November 2, 2018

Student Spotlight Story: Emily Graul

Emily Graul (NHS'20) is a global health major and former student fellow with the Global Health Initiative.

Tell us about your experience working with a faculty mentor and conducting research as a Global Health Initiative Student fellow. What inspired the focus of your research?

I chose to research under Myriam Vuckovic, professor of international health, and Alayne Adams, professor of global urban health, to be exposed to research under a qualitative setting. Much of the research I had participated in the past was more quantitative. I also had particularly enjoyed the maternal and child health (MCH) course taught by Vuckovic my freshman year.

The research was composed of reading a set of qualitative interviews on community health worker (CHW) programs in Bangladesh from a larger UNICEF-funded qualitative study on MCH programs. These interviews were already coded and translated from Bengali. My task was to read over 400 pages of textual data in order to write a manuscript on the best practices, lessons learned, and insights in the formal implementation of CHWs into the broader healthcare system.

CHWs are part of the broader frontline and lay health worker cadre. In underserved or marginalized populations, their role is to facilitate linkage between the healthcare system and the communities they serve, and to encourage and enable access and utilization to healthcare services.

It was an amazing opportunity to be able to read the interviews with the CHWs themselves, and the community members, health workers, and program managers with whom they interact. For many CHWs, the respect and trust received from their local communities and the ability to contribute to their household earnings served as a form of pride and empowerment. In particular, it was inspiring to be able to read the voices of women CHWs. Additionally, the interviews added greater tangibility and applicability to many of the global health concepts learned in class.

Tell us about some of the global health events you have participated in on campus/in D.C.

  • The Consortium of Universities for Global Health has a week-long annual conference that rotates locations. My freshman year (2016), it was held in D.C. I attended several seminars that involved Georgetown professors discussing urban health.
  • In the winter of 2018, I attended a GUMC lecture by Dr. Mark Dybul (C’85, MD’92), founder of Georgetown’s Center for Global Health and Quality, focusing on the importance of addressing an outcome-based approach to addressing universal health care in health systems, and the ability one has today to challenge existing structures to improve the lives of others.
  • Additionally, last winter, I attended a lecture by Dr. Peter Kilmarx, deputy director of the Fogarty International Center at the NIH, focusing on his experiences in medicine and epidemiology. 
  • Under Michael Stoto, professor of population health and health system administration, I am working with two other GHI fellows, Grant Rosensteel (C’19) and Siona Sharma (SFS’20) to coordinate a university-wide Influenza simulation in November. Throughout the semester a group of students are researching both the 1918 Influenza response and the response to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic; our intention is to use lessons learned to inform the simulation on campus.
  • The summer after my freshman year, I was a research intern under Rebecca Katz, professor at the Center for Global Health Science and Security. I covered congressional seminars and D.C. conferences for the center, planned the 2017 semester of the Global Health Security Seminar Series, and researched the historical implications and global governance of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. I loved the internship; it offered the ability to learn about global health security through experiential learning outside of a class.

What activities are you involved with on campus?

  • Besides research, I am an EMT for Georgetown University Emergency Response Medical Service (GERMS) and have been a leader for the NHS freshman pre-orientation, CURA, for the past two years.
  • This previous spring semester, I helped create a new student organization, Georgetown University Students for Health & Medical Equity (GUSHME), along with a new Center for Social Justice’s Alternative Breaks Program (ABP) Trip. Both the student organization and the ABP trip were formed in light of recent research on the ethics of ‘voluntourism’ abroad and the importance of sustainable community partnerships. GUSHME is working with the Justice-Health Alliance (JHA) from the Georgetown Law Center to facilitate awareness of voluntourism ethics on campus and addressing healthcare inequities in D.C. through local partnerships.
  • The new CSJ ABP trip will be a healthcare immersion trip to Oaxaca, Mexico through the NGO Child Family Health International (CHFI). As a co-leader of the spring trip, my hope is that both students and leaders can learn from and use the immersion experience to challenge and recalibrate their understandings of service, particularly in regard to the importance of sustainable community-based healthcare when engaging with local partners.

What is your favorite part about being at Georgetown?

My favorite part about being at Georgetown has been the ability to explore what I am interested and passionate in, which doesn’t necessarily have to follow directly what I am studying in my major. For example, one of my favorite courses I’ve taken was Art, Medicine, and Gender, which was not in my major, I also feel the variety of opportunities in my global health major, campus involvement, as well as attending lectures and events on campus have strengthened and broadened my understanding of how various geopolitical, legislative, socio-economic, demographic, and environmental factors all simultaneously intersect to affect health and well-being.

I also have appreciated Georgetown’s increased emphasis on mental health. I think it’s something unique here on campus that we recognize the need to incorporate self-care into our involved lives as Georgetown students.

Tell us about your educational and professional aspirations.

For my first two years at Georgetown, I was unsure about whether to continue with the goal of medical school. For me, participation in both global and public health-related opportunities was the best way for me to decide whether I wanted to focus on global health, particularly in a clinical setting. Conducting research for a summer at the Center for Global Health Science & Security, learning about CHWs in the NHS for the Fellows Program, physician shadowing, campus activities, and medical scribing have all informed my decision to apply to medical school. I am considering applying to MPH or MSc programs in the future as well. Ultimately, I am interested in a career in medicine involving both clinical practice and research, perhaps within infectious disease.