The dean of the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine said she thinks it is important students and institutions reach across borders to address health inequity at an event Wednesday.
Kelsey Martin, the dean of the medical school, gave the keynote speech at the UCLA Global Conversation, part of International Education Week at UCLA. About 75 people attended the event at Powell Library, which was hosted by several organizations, including the UCLA International Institute and the International Education Office.
International Education Week is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State and Department of Education to encourage students to gain international experience through study abroad programs, international research, internships and work opportunities.
Martin said she thinks it is important to help future physicians and researchers understand how social and economic factors affect health and access to medicine.
“Twenty percent of outcomes in health can be attributed to biology, but 80 percent of that is also behavioral and social,” she said.
Martin said she joined the Peace Corps after graduating with a degree in English but added she did not want to teach English. Instead, she chose to help distribute vaccines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“Having gone to a place in the world where there was so much suffering, death and injustice, and feeling I was empty-handed, but knowing I could help, changed the course of my education,” Martin said.
Martin added she thinks life expectancies across international and local borders are key indicators of health inequity. For example, she said the life expectancy in Sierra Leone is 50 years, while in developed countries like Japan the life expectancy is 84 years.
“(Life expectancies show) how important it is to reach out across global borders, but also across borders in our city,” Martin said.
She added she thinks it is important that universities take steps to address world health inequity. Programs like the UCLA Center for World Health give students an opportunity to work in health services in other countries, Martin said.
“(The) UCLA Center for World Health is improving lives by investing in people,” she said “Experiences should not just enrich the individual, they should change what they wish to do”
Individuals who attended the event said they think educating students about international issues is important for their personal development.
Annie Pho, a librarian at UCLA, said she thinks students have many opportunities to experience different international cultures, including through the library’s travel collections.
“The library itself is a space where we can bring people together. We really believe it is a place where people can come together and meet each other,” she said.
Henry Aslanian, a UCLA alumnus, said studying abroad was a big part of his college experience and thinks all students should also travel abroad.
“What you learn is really significant, even afterward, because the world is becoming more global and there is more need to connect with other cultures,” he said.