Q&A With 2022-2023 of the Global Health Student Advocacy Board

The University of Minnesota's Global Health Student Advocacy Board (GHSAB) is an interprofessional global health student group. This committee of student representatives from graduate and professional programs across the Health Sciences works to educate and mobilize the next generation of socially responsible global health professionals.

This year, three health sciences students will serve as GHSAB co-chairs: 

  • Sarah Fenno, MPH: Second year medical school student 
  • Nick Hable, MPH: Second year medical school student 
  • Afra Suri: Second year DVM/MPH student 

With the start of the fall semester and a new year of GHSAB activities, the new GHSAB Co-Chairs discussed their upcoming tenure and plans for the board in 2022-2023. 

Portrait of Nick Hable
Nick Hable

What are your goals going into your year as a GHSAB Co-Chair? 

Nick Hable: I’m excited to work on promoting ways that GHSAB and others interested can participate in events that fit the needs of those around us. We want to ensure that we are providing educational events, volunteering opportunities, and various resources that communities are specifically asking for. Devoting time to really getting to know the communities we are interacting with, whether that be students from various graduate programs or individuals from the surrounding neighborhoods of Minneapolis, will allow us to further connect with them. This will ultimately strengthen the quality of our work, deepen our local roots, and allow ourselves and the communities we are interacting with to grow and prosper together.

What types of activities do you plan to host over the year?

Sarah Fenno: We are hopeful that this year will allow us to host more in-person events and networking opportunities. We plan to continue with educational lunch lectures, panel discussions, and volunteer opportunities in the community. We will also have our daily events during Global Public Health Week, including our Global Health Gala! This year we also hope to partner with other student groups and show the importance of global health in many different fields. We encourage you to check out GHSAB’s events and reach out to us with your ideas! 

Portrait of Afra Suri
Afra Suri

Why did you want to become a GHSAB Co-Chair?

Afra Suri: My interest in Global Health began in January 2020 when I went on to acquire public health experience in Thailand through a short-term study-abroad course (advertised through the Pre-Health Student Resource Center). There, in Chiang Mai, I realized my excitement for the field of global health as I studied the interactions between elephant and human health in shelter, sanctuary, and clinical settings. As I visited elephant camps to learn about the transmission of tuberculosis from human to elephant, and elephant to human, my experience in Chiang Mai opened my eyes to the importance of global health in our daily lives and within animal medicine. I hadn’t realized how disruptions in environmental conditions could foster disease in both humans and animals. My time on the board last year allowed me to learn about new global health topics, beyond the scope of veterinary medicine, and meet new people. As a result, I became a GHSAB Co-Chair to continue to foster interprofessional collaboration between board members.

Nick Hable: Global health is a huge passion of mine. This stems from my time spent learning from public health experts and medical professionals during the times when I lived in Costa Rica, Croatia, Botswana, Uganda, and Rwanda. I saw firsthand how incredibly important and effective global health initiatives can be when locally led and when sustainability is a priority. However, many initiatives all over the world, and within the US, do not prioritize locally led and sustainable initiatives. Being a GHSAB co-chair will allow me to continually work towards promoting these core principles to our members, the University of Minnesota community, and everyone we interact with. 

What do you see as the value of GHSAB for board members and students? Why should someone become involved? 

Portrait of Sarah Fenno
Sarah Fenno

Sarah Fenno: Being a part of the GHSAB community is a wonderful opportunity to connect with fellow students across the different graduate programs, as well as learn from UMN faculty and other experts in the global health field. Medicine and healthcare must be a team effort in order to tackle the world's emerging issues, and this is the message GHSAB aims to share with its outreach and initiatives. Becoming involved in GHSAB exposed me to topics and opportunities that are not always offered with traditional graduate classes and allows other disciplines and interests to merge together. It's always encouraging and exciting to be together with others from different backgrounds and experiences who have such a passion for global health and all its possibilities. If you have an interest in getting to know others both within and outside of your program, global health and advocacy efforts, and just having fun, then I encourage you to get involved with GHSAB! 

Afra Suri: It is my personal belief that to be a strong specialist in any health field, it is important to have a thorough understanding of the concept that the field is based in. Global health, in particular, allows for a systematic way of thinking which serves to help health officials understand human (and animal!) health in a broader ecological context. I believe all health professions have much in common and interprofessional collaboration is a key component to making new advancements in each field. GHSAB is a great way to meet people from different graduate programs and joining the group exposes you to new perspectives and ideas.