Rebecca Chase is a 2020 graduate of the Master of Science in Global Health (MSGH) program. Her undergraduate degree is from Salisbury University with a major in Community Health Education and a minor in Ethnic and Intercultural Studies. In this spotlight, she discusses her current work at the John Snow Inc., Research and Training Institute (JSI), her passion for global health and international development, and what her experience was like at Notre Dame.
Q. Tell us about how and when you first became interested in global health. What are some of your global health passions?
A. I am currently working at John Snow Inc., Research and Training Institute (JSI) as a Program Officer for the Immunization Center. The Center works to build effective routine immunization systems, introduce new vaccines nationwide, and improve the quality and use of immunization data at facility levels. We focus on underserved populations in both hard-to-reach rural areas and fast-growing urban cities. Currently, I support country teams in India, Malawi, Kenya, and Tanzania; supporting immunization initiatives funded by Merck, UNICEF, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The ELMA Foundation, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. I provide financial, operational, and administrative support to backstop in-country teams and field offices for financial management, daily operations, and compliance with JSI’s policy and procedures.
Q. What are you doing now professionally?
A. My first international experience was in Belize City, Belize where I studied abroad and facilitated health education lessons, and lead an after-school health and wellness camp for underprivileged primary-aged students. Later in my undergraduate career, I interned in Dodowa and Cape Coast, Ghana. I investigated and learned about the social determinants of health that affected HIV, syphilis, Hepatitis B, TB, and malaria contraction. In addition, I monitored and evaluated the progression of wound treatment and the knowledge of mothers regarding their child’s nutrition, vaccinations, and overall health. These opportunities enriched my knowledge of the various strategies that are in place to improve the management of infectious and vector-borne diseases. I was conscious that many of these strategies lacked insight on social determinants which affected disease transmission; leading to unsustainable approaches. These experiences sparked my interest in global health, further leading to my passion for immunizations, women’s reproductive health, sexual health, and infant and adolescent development.
Q. What is your most memorable experience at Notre Dame, and why?
A. When I was pursuing my Master of Science in Global Health, I completed my capstone research in St. Joseph County and Monroe County, Indiana. I conducted qualitative research to explore individual experiences during the novel coronavirus pandemic and the implications it had for community resilience within the two counties. The research revealed that preexisting socioeconomic disparities intensified during the pandemic, sustained social engagement lessened the negative emotional impact of the pandemic, and unclear communication regarding the pandemic resulted in frustration and confusion. Being able to have open and candid conversations with the research participants was my most memorable experience because it allowed me to reflect on why I got into global health in the first place. The conversations underscored the need for investment in public health efforts that address social and racial inequities; which the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to show as many racial and ethnic minority groups have been unequally affected, putting them at a higher risk of getting sick and dying from the virus.
Q. How would you say the Master of Science in Global Health program prepared you for the work you've done since graduating?
A. The courses in the MSGH program emphasized both theory and practical application, which gave me a deep understanding of how to improve healthcare outcomes and systems, work effectively in challenging healthcare settings, navigate global issues, and evaluate results. During the process of completing my capstone research project, the COVID-19 pandemic began, and all international travel was canceled. Alongside my peers, I was required to shift my research focus and complete research domestically within Indiana. I quickly discovered, first-hand, that the healthcare field is always changing, and to be an adaptive and innovative global health professional. In my current work at JSI, I have seen the effects COVID-19 has on international communities. I have had to adapt with my team, as we provide technical support to the in-country staff teams and district/national health facilities.
Q. Do you have any plans for the future? If so, what are they?
A. I plan to continue my career in global health and international development, whether that is in the immunization sector or one of my other areas of passion. I hope to one day pursue continuing education so that I can work to ensure the health and safety of vulnerable populations worldwide.