“Great! How can we support you?” That is what Jeremy Schwartz and Tracy Rabin would say if their children chose to pursue a career in global health. From early in their medical careers, global health has been a family affair for these two physicians, both faculty in the Section of General Internal Medicine at Yale School of Medicine. They have both developed productive, long-term collaborative relationships with colleagues in Uganda and their two children have been an important part of that journey.
“As a child, I was fortunate to go on a safari in Kenya with my grandparents and on other family trips internationally,” says Schwartz. “Those experiences directed my life toward a career that would have a global impact.” Rabin says that at a young age she had the desire to be in a helping profession, but her real “aha” moment was in college when she went with a public health nurse to do tuberculosis screenings in rural Virginia. “I saw firsthand the differences I could make by working in a community setting, and I loved to travel and learn about other cultures, so global health became a natural career choice for me,” she said.
Having met in medical school and later married, Rabin and Schwartz have brought their children along on many trips to Uganda where they focus most of their academic pursuits. “We loved the place and the people. For me, the research and research capacity building piece grew, as did the educational and clinical capacity building piece for Tracy. We consider our Ugandan colleagues our extended family.” says Schwartz.
When asked what surprised them most about this career path, they both said “Everything.” Aside from Schwartz’s first research year in Uganda as a medical student, the early years of their careers were largely focused on clinical care and education. Over time, they’ve both become more involved in mentorship and program/partnership development. Rabin focuses on training, partnering with academic leaders in Uganda to build national capacity to provide specialized training and patient care locally. “With education and training comes sustainability and independence,” she explains. “The health care landscape globally and in Uganda has evolved over the past two decades and we are being responsive to these new needs.” In her work both in and outside of Yale, Rabin addresses the eradication of the colonial mindset and the importance of knowing the appropriate roles of global health practitioners when they work with individuals from other communities. “We are here to partner, share, teach, listen and learn from each other and other cultures, so we can contribute to sustainable health and wellness care systems around the world,” says Rabin. “Thankfully, the academic global health community is working hard to evolve away from the prior paradigm which was often more focused on individuals from resource-rich institutions “dropping in” to resource-deprived areas, conducting research with limited input from community members, and then leaving.”
Schwartz reflects that developing capacity is incredibly affirming and fulfilling. “My Ugandan collaborators recently received a large foundation grant- our largest by far- with minimal input from me. That was very exciting because it signifies achieving a level of capacity within the team,” says Schwartz. “Awards like this are catalytic because they allow the team to grow from within and bring on additional people who will themselves go on to contribute meaningfully.”
Tracy Rabin, Associate Professor of Medicine (General Medicine) and Director, Office of Global Health, Yale School of Medicine; Jeremy Schwartz, Associate Professor of Medicine (General Medicine) and Epidemiology (Chronic Diseases), Yale School of Medicine and School of Public Health