Barbara Bush ’04 wants young people to work in global health — even if their training doesn’t seem to fit the job.
Bush, the eldest child of President George W. Bush ’68, addressed nearly 40 undergraduate and graduate students at the Yale School of Public Health Wednesday morning. Bush encouraged the students to get involved in global health in unconventional ways, such as through logistics, policy and advocacy instead of medicine, the more traditional route. She suggested that health careers can be financially rewarding and added that the long-term viability of such careers is often underestimated.
Bush said many students wrongly think global health jobs are economically infeasible, but some organzations have managed to make global health work more lucrative by helping employees specialize in profitable fields.
“That way, when your uncle in Florida [former Gov. Jeb Bush] asks why you didn’t go into finance, you have an answer,” Bush said.
Bush began her presentation by asking all audience members to briefly outline their interest in health to demonstrate the diversity of perspectives in the room, each of which could lead to meaningful , she interacted extensively with members of the gay and lesbian community, which she said gave her deeper insight into HIV due to the stigma she saw LGBTQ people facing, even if they were HIV-negative.
In 2009, Bush and five others co-founded the Global Health Corps — a nonprofit that sends students around the globe to work on solving health-related problems — after winning a $250,000 grant from Google. So far, the program focuses on East Africa and urban centers in the United States, she said, but it has plans hosted by the Global Health Leadership Institute, primarily consisted of members of the “Strategic Thinking in Global Health” class, which is co-taught by Michael Skonieczny, Leslie Curry and Branford College Master Elizabeth Bradley GRD ’96.s needed in global health fields, Bush broke the students into smaller groups to create business plans targeted at addressing specific concerns about youth involvement in global health. This technique, she said, was similar to the way she came up with the idea for the Global Health Corps. Students submitted plans including establishing a high school honor society oriented toward global health and building a network of bloggers to hype raise awareness about global health messages.
Audience members said they found Bush’s advice extremely relevant to their lives as university sudents.
Alex Bowles GRD ’12 said promoting programs like the Global Health Corps directly to students at Yale would be effective at interesting students who might otherwise not have become involved. Stephanie Platis SPH ’12 agreed, adding that she found Bush’s focus on youth voices to be inspirational.
“[Bush] is an incredible person,” said Platis. “All the work they do is so relevant to what we’re learning. I think it affords all of us the opportunity to put these skills to use and get some incredible groundwork experience.”
Bradley is the faculty director of the Global Health Leadership Institute, which is an offshoot of the Jackson Institute of Global Affairs. Skonieczny is the executive director of GHLI.