Q&A With New Leaders 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: 

  • Rees Parrish, second year DVM/MPH student
  • Kelly Reger, second year medical student
  • Olivia Wicker, second year medical 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 2021-2022. 

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

Portrait of Rees Parrish
Rees Parrish

Rees Parrish: Although I have many goals as the new GHSAB Co-Chair, my primary goals will be assuring the board is on solid footing for the Co-Chairs who succeed me, because I believe that the board is valuable for growth and development in global health here at the U and an excellent opportunity to collaborate across health professions. Another goal of mine is making connections and learning from other careers within the health field, who all bring varied perspectives to the Team Sport of Global Health. I also hope to learn more about global and ecosystem health praxis and participation on the board will help me learn and develop those skills.

Kelly Reger: My goal for this upcoming year would be to truly bring our mission statement of “Global is Local and Local is Global” to life. Especially with the past year in the pandemic, we have all felt isolated and also seen how health and policy influence life across the globe. With GHSAB, we hope to foster a community that is eager to learn about and advocate for injustices that exist everywhere. Most health issues that we see happening across the world are also happening in our own backyard. My goal is for GHSAB to play an active role in connecting the university with local organizations to make an impact and build sustainable relationships.

Olivia Wicker wearing her whitecoat, smiling toward the camera while standing on the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis
Olivia Wicker

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

Olivia Wicker: Our world seems to be in a bit of disarray right now with climate change and natural disasters, politics, and a world-wide pandemic. While at times it can be overwhelming, it's a great opportunity for GHSAB to dive deep into the problems that are right at our doorstep with panel and discussion events. Additionally, I love the phrase "Global is Local,"and I'd like us to get more involved in our local community with volunteer and outreach events. 

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

Rees Parrish: I was lucky enough to get to know the previous Co-Chairs, Jesse and Paige, through the Global Health Case Competition. I was able to learn more about the position, and the role it has in raising awareness about Global Health topics, and fostering interprofessional communication and connections through collaboration between board members.

Olivia Wicker: My interest in Global Health piqued when I joined the Peace Corps and volunteered in Cameroon for two years. During that time, I was exposed to the work of a lot of Global Organizations doing work in the community, both aid work and business ventures. While I was able to see the good that some of these organizations do, I also saw many problems caused by these organizations. It made me think critically about Global Health and how I can be involved in a more positive way. Being involved in GHSAB I met people who knew much more than me and who helped me learn more about global health and sustainability. I wanted to become a chair to keep that up for future students. 

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

Portrait of Kelly Reger
Kelly Reger

Kelly Reger: GHSAB is a wonderful opportunity to connect with students across the different graduate programs as well as learn from experts in the field from all faculty departments. Healthcare is a team effort, and GHSAB exemplifies the magic that happens when people from a variety of backgrounds and interests unite. Global health work is a vast arena, and I personally find it fascinating that each person brings a unique perspective and skill to the table that everyone else can learn from. I found GHSAB to be a huge asset to my medical education when often discussing topics that might not normally be part of a graduate school’s curriculum. It expands the scope of learning beyond your career field of interest and lets you see how integral OneHealth can be from a big picture perspective, and that’s exciting. If you love meeting new people, engaging in health advocacy, and learning about all things global health, I encourage you to get involved!  


Global Health Student Advocacy Board

Applications for the 2021-2022 Advocacy Board will open in late September. Learn more about the University of Minnesota's Global Health Student Advocacy Board, and how to join this diverse group of healthcare students that work to embrace and promote global health and interdisciplinary learning.