Research Assistant, University of Washington Department of Global Health

Emilia sitting next to others.

What inspired you to pursue a graduate degree in global health?  

I grew up in Bogotá, Colombia in a family of educators and world travelers. Although I was raised in Colombia, several chapters of my life have been lived abroad, making my life a patchwork of intercultural lessons. Perhaps it is because of this that I developed a fascination with the diversity of cultures in our planet, which led me to pursue an anthropology degree at Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá.  

Although I loved the lens from which anthropology saw the world, I also became interested in medicine and the power it has to help people have better, more dignified lives. I then started exploring the intersection between social sciences and health, which drove me to medical anthropology and public health.  

This passion first led me to India, where I worked with Community Empowerment Lab using the Kangaroo Mother Care to tackle maternal-child mortality and as a model through which rural hospitals could become sanctuaries of empathy and care. I later went on to work with Partners in Health in Mexico, finding strategies to develop better treatment for indigenous and immigrant patients. Back in Colombia I worked with Bogotá’s central military hospital in the humanization of birth attendance and with the NGO Sinergias, creating public health projects that promote intercultural healthcare and strengthen local capacities among indigenous communities in the Amazon.      

Why did you decide to attend the UW for graduate school?  

The mesh of interculturality and foreignness in which I constantly find myself has exposed me to the complexity of diversity, showing me both the richness of a multicultural planet and the incomprehensible inequality that comes with it. Questions about the health inequities I’ve encountered and the role I could play in helping improve this made me realize I needed to equip myself with further practical tools in public health in order to help more directly, more profoundly, the areas I work in. I chose the MPH in Global Health at UW because of this, finding here an interdisciplinary and multifaceted approach to health issues, hands-on training, and possibilities to learn from wonderful people world-wide.  

What are your research interests? 

My research interests revolve around exploring the social determinants of health and local notions of wellbeing in rural or minority communities in order to develop strategies for more holistic, empathetic, and sustainable health models. I am interested in the intersection of medical knowledges and systems, and in how we can think of intercultural strategies that are more effective in promoting health among historically neglected regions. Although I am most passionate about maternal and child healthcare, my time in the MPH has gotten me excited about many other things, such as Implementation Science and the strengthening of Health Systems. 

What are you enjoying most about your graduate program? 

My favorite part of this program is the community I am surrounded by! My classmates are profoundly wise leaders from all around the world that teach and inspire me every day; it is a true privilege to have them as mentors and close friends in this challenging journey. The emphasis in Global Health (the MPH track I’m on) has also been particularly eye opening, allowing me to understand the global forces that determine the daily lives of the people I work with. I am grateful for the macro perspective of Global Health and the practical tools of Public Health that graduate school is giving me, which are complementing my ethnographic, Anthropology perspective in incredibly enriching ways.   

How did your award influence your decision to attend UW? 

The award I got is allowing me to go through the program with the financial support I needed to live in Seattle, and it also allowed me to work as a Research Assistant at Harborview Medical Center, which has been a wonderful opportunity to continue learning and helping out in a real-world setting.