Studying Global Health in India: Lessons Learned in Community-based Partnerships and and Healthcare

Students pose for a picture during their time in India.

Rachel Mansk, center, traveled to India in 2023 as part of India: Global Health, Globalization and Leadership.

India was full of firsts for Rachel Mansk, MPH ‘23. 

Being in Mysore meant a 12-hour time difference, bucket showers and taking in an unfamiliar culture. But more than anything, her experience emphasized the importance of collaboration in global health. 

“The biggest takeaway for me was prioritizing community leadership when working in global health. Rather than going to another environment and enforcing your own culture, global health is about utilizing community-led partnerships to promote health equity,” said Mansk. 

Mansk was one of five students who traveled to Mysore in January 2023 as part of India: Global Health, Globalization and Leadership, a two-week course open to UMN graduate students and lifelong learners, including alumni, UMN faculty and staff.  The course is offered by the Center for Global Health and Social Responsibility. 

Mansk received a Masters of Public Health with an emphasis in environmental science from UMN. Her time in India counted towards her global health minor. 

Mansk became interested in environmental science after traveling to Peru. During the trip, prior to the pandemic, she saw first-hand the impact climate change was having on the country. 

“I witnessed how the frequent droughts and a changing climate are impacting the health of the residents. So I figured combining both the environmental and global health perspective would be good,” said Mansk. 

She experienced the effects of climate change in India, too. According to the World Bank, India has 18 percent of the world’s population but only four percent of its water resources. During the trip, Mansk took bucket showers – a practice used to conserve water. 

The global health students, instructors, and guest speakers stand in front of the SVYM Palliative Care Center, smiling toward the camera
Mansk and other students on the trip visited medical sites in Mysore and had the opportunity to talk with local doctors, residents and patients.

Mansk’s days in Mysore were “packed,” starting with breakfast and yoga before lectures and field visits. Students toured local hospitals and schools, talking to health practitioners and patients. 

“During each site visit we had the opportunity to interact with students, doctors and residents, which was unique because it offered a different type of learning experience than what you would get if you learned about global health in the U.S.,” said Mansk. 

Students saw healthcare through a different cultural lens and learned about the social factors that can influence patient outcomes. Mansk mentioned, for instance, witnessing the lack of reliable transportation in rural areas for pregnant women. Issues of sanitation and water access were also discussed throughout the course. 

Her experience is something she’ll take with her as she pursues a medical degree. 

“Learning about global health while in India taught me to be more humble, and I think this is an important quality to have as a medical student and future physician,” said Mansk. 

“Public and global health involves working with people, and because people and communities differ, it makes the field complex. What works for one community may not work for another, and being able to constantly adapt to, and learn from, different practices is critical.”