Name: Colton Merdich
Year of Study: Senior
Major: B.S. in Biology (Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Focus), Minor: Global Health
Hometown: Tempe, Arizona
Why did you choose to pursue the minor in global health?:
Back in high school, I competed with a team in constitutional debate and even went to the National Competition in DC for it. I always knew I wanted to pursue medicine, but my newfound passion for policy stuck with me, combining with my passion for medicine to form an interest in health policy and health inequities. I took a class focused on mapping health disparities in Seattle (Geography 245!), and a classmate of mine recommended that I take the Introduction to Global Health course. When I took Global Health 101, it all clicked for me. The minor gave me the flexibility to take classes that peaked my interest, while still taking courses for my major in biology!
How does it compliment your core major studies?:
I’ve wanted to major in biology since taking AP Bio in high school, as I found the subject to be beyond interesting, with numerous underlying complexities. But in my biological coursework, I’ve noticed that the research is heavily focused on specific questions: How does this work? Why does this behave like that? Is this necessary for that to function? This research is often conducted in a laboratory setting removed from the complexities of everyday life. My global health coursework has focused on this same line of questioning, but within the larger context of how people behave, how culture influences health care delivery, people’s perceptions on western medicine, and so much more. Together, these two areas of study provide information on the biological issues that cause disease and the reality of social considerations to make when creating interventions for such as disease.
What was most valuable about your global health coursework?:
The global health minor has drastically shifted my thinking on what comprises someone’s health. Every single class you take will talk about the social determinants of health, which encompass things like income, education level, access to food, and the environment in which someone grows up in. Prior to taking my first global health class (Global Health 101), I did not realize this complexity that goes into determining someone’s health.
What experiences at the UW have been most influential?:
My experience working as an American Heart Association CPR Instructor through an RSO/club on campus (Medical Emergency Training Association) has enabled me to educate the UW community to recognize and take action during instances of sudden cardiac arrest. This opportunity has allowed me to grow my skill as a health educator for diverse audiences, which I hope to use when educating my patients on health issues in the future.
What are your professional goals?:
My goal in life is to enact positive change both on an individual level and a population level. The dream is to become an MD/MPH, which would allow me to both work with patients and work on health policy reform to achieve that goal. I also hope to get involved with global health research after medical school.
How do you anticipate using your minor in your future?:
I plan on using my minor throughout the rest of my career. The underlying factors that comprise a patient’s health (beyond just biological factors) is essential to consider when evaluating them in a clinic. The skills of interpreting health research is vital for understanding the current health issues and health solutions for specific populations of people. Understanding that disease does not conform to international borders is foundational to mounting a response to epidemics and pandemics, like COVID-19. And knowing how a health care delivery system works in different regions of the world can inspire new reforms for our own health care delivery system.
Anything prospective/current GH Minor students should consider to maximize their experience in Global Health (events, classes, global health faculty or staff to connect with, etc. you experienced and enjoyed):
Some of the best classes I took were the ones that I knew nothing about! I walked into a seminar on bioengineering global health solutions knowing the absolute bare minimum about bioengineering. I walked out of that class knowing the process of designing low-cost interventions, the considerations to make when designing those interventions, and the range of exciting research that is occurring at the UW alone! I urge you to leap into those classes, as you’ll learn more than you expect!