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Student Spotlight - Arsema Thomas

April 12, 2017
by Denise Meyer

Growing up in East and West Africa with parents who both worked for the United Nations Development Program, Arsema Thomas has lived in a lot of underdeveloped areas. The effects of geopolitics became part of her childhood experience. My father wanted me to be a doctor, says Arsema. But after living in Kenya where she witnessed the re-emergence of infectious diseases such as cholera and malaria in refugee camps, she decided that medicine was too narrow a focus. In order to gain deeper understanding of underlying factors in health, Arsema decided to pursue a master’s in public health.

A first-year student in the Department of Health Policy and Management, Arsema has joined forces with fellow YSPH students, Marcus Ihemdi and Luke Versten, in a social-entreprenial start-up. Called Mosaic, the company has a three-pronged approach to fostering vocational self-sufficiency for refugees. Many of the world’s refugees are unskilled, says Arsema, so one approach is to create certified training programs in refugee camps. About 20 percent of refugees had prior professional careers so another project aims to match skills to need in refugee camps — such as the Kenyan/Sudanese camp — through an online networking tool. For example, teachers and health professionals can be employed right in the camp, meeting unmet needs. And lastly, Mosaic is creating an online marketplace for refugees to sell their goods.

The group has competed for funding through the Hult Prize Competition, sponsored by Hult International Business School and the Clinton Global Initiative, and is applying to the Thorne Prize for Social Innovation in Health or Education through Innovate Health Yale. These competitions really push you to develop an interdisciplinary team, which, in turn, forces you to address an issue from many mindsets from the get go, says Arsema. “That leads to more sustainable and impactful initiatives.”

Submitted by Denise Meyer on April 04, 2017