One school partners with one community to affect real, lasting change.
That is the mission of GlobeMed, an organization founded at Northwestern University that empowers students from a variety of disciplines to pull together their knowledge and strengths to improve health equity around the world.
“From urban Detroit to rural Rwanda, we’re doing things like renovating health clinics, launching nutrition programs and improving access to clean water,” says Victor Roy, a student at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine and one of the founders of GlobeMed.
The organization’s origins lie in a 2007 brainstorming session between Roy and his classmates who were frustrated by the lack of engagement they felt with the global service opportunities they were offered at the time. For all of the good they did, the short-term volunteer trips available to students were just that and lacked the opportunity to actually track effective change over time.
“That partnership was lost. It was more about experiencing a setting and then leaving,” says Roy. “Students didn’t feel like they had curriculum opportunities and learning opportunities outside of just the trip. We felt that our full energies and talents weren’t being tapped into.”
After their initial bull session, Roy and his partners organized the GlobeMed Global Health Summit to further explore their idea of a more committed service model. They realized that their vision was shared by students at colleges and universities across the nation, so they invited representatives from 14 schools to attend the first summit. This set the stage for a foundational network of GlobeMed chapters, each student-led, that trade tips and ideas and share with each other best practices for improving global health.
Today, 56 colleges and universities host a chapter of GlobeMed, each partnered one-to-one with a grassroots organization addressing health disparities. This unique approach allows the community organizations to grow and broaden their impact knowing that in their GlobeMed chapter they have a committed partner with which to collaborate on new ideas and set ambitious goals. The result, according to GlobeMed’s website, is “organizations with a greater capacity to serve their community and a generation of young people equipped to transform the world.”
Another strength, according to Roy, is GlobeMed’s willingness to open its ranks to students of any and all majors, recognizing that each has a unique gift to provide to the mission.
“I was a political science student and a global health minor [when GlobeMed was founded],” says Roy, “but I met students with engineering backgrounds or who were studying English or the humanities. That was the perfect combination for taking on these kinds of challenges. It’s not going to be just doctors; it’s going to be people from across sectors and disciplines solving problems and developing solutions.”
For Northwestern senior Amanda Blazek, joining GlobeMed was more than just a chance to give back. Through her involvement with the flagship chapter, which is partnered with the Adonai Community Development Center in Namugoga, Uganda, the journalism student has found a network of like-minded peers committed to global engagement.
“I initially joined to learn about global health, but I came away as part of a community of really intellectual and thoughtful individuals. The people I met ended up being my teachers, my research partners and my role models. Now that I’m a senior, I hope to inspire and teach the younger kids below me just as the seniors did on my first day.”