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In 2007, GlobeMed was founded with a mission of amplifying the voices of grassroots leaders and scaling their impact. Unencumbered by external drivers, these leaders are inherently innovative and solutions-oriented; their proximity to the challenges they address informs their work and reflection.

But in many cases, the cards are stacked against these change makers; there are fundamental societal structures that disadvantage those without certain power from achieving their potential. As I’ve forged relationships in communities experiencing extreme poverty, I’ve personally witnessed the myriad of ways that insufficient access to health prohibits children and families from learning, growing, and prospering. What drew me originally to GlobeMed was its model for addressing the core barriers that lead to disparity—especially health disparity—as opposed to the outcomes, once it’s too late. When U.S. college students walk shoulder-to-shoulder with the grassroots champions from whom they have so much to learn, they are equipped to be strong allies in all they go on to do. They represent their country and the future in solidarity and partnership. I had the opportunity to do just that starting in college and it changed the trajectory of my life. An entire movement of students and communities who have shared in this experience are truly a force to be reckoned with.

Developing the next generation of socially just and responsible leaders is no small feat, so we center our model on the most tried-and-true method available: human connection. As we form deep, long-lasting relationships between our students and partners, they each learn from the rich perspective and history of the other. It is crucial that as we bolster community leaders around the world, they experience diversity representative of the American people. Equally important, we need the next generation of American leaders to include a full array of lived experiences informed by our country’s diversity.

The Global Health Fellows Program (GHFP) II, hosted by the Public Health Institute (PHI), helped us realize that to cultivate the diversity we so value (and need) globally, we must first do so at home, in our chapters. Since that realization several years ago, I am proud to say that our network is more diverse than ever, we are able to offer exceptional field internships to brilliant students with financial constraints, and our students’ understanding surrounding racial justice and inclusion has increased dramatically. In no small way, this is thanks to our Director of Inclusion, Paris Prince, and the plethora of regional conferences on diversity that culminated with our national summit this year on Facing Injustice, which featured a keynote panel on the important intersection of race and health.

Through GHFP-II, we’ve scaled to 60 University-based partnerships, facilitated by more than 2,000 students annually. We’ve exponentially grown our reach to Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), including Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), and expanded to a multitude of school types (public, private, urban, rural, liberal arts, research, etc.). I’m proud to say that all chapter leaders have sought out members who expand their collective worldview and challenge their perspectives.

In each of our chapters, having diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, thought, and experience at the table leads to—when crafted inclusively—masterful dissection of the world’s most pressing problems. I’ve seen it time and time again. Students bring a unique spark of passion to the great challenges of global health and social justice, but diversity fuels the flame. Meaningful diversity is prerequisite to identifying (as we say in engineering) the “elegant solutions” necessary to end extreme poverty, realize health equity, and be citizens of a more prosperous global community. It creates the friction of ideas that sparks innovation, and it better informs our efforts.

Simply put: it is not possible to develop the next generation of government, social, and private sector leaders if our movement is not truly inclusive and diverse. And as we’ve diversified, we’ve grappled with new challenges and become more effective. Our students have gained experience in diverse local communities that equips them to engage consciously and boldly with the world.

The dream of a health equitable future potent at GlobeMed, and realizing it is not that far off. This quest is a personal one, for me and many others. I feel fortunate to have such support from USAID and the Global Health Fellows Program; alongside the agency and the rest of the GHFP-II partners, we will continue to make significant strides forward.

Bradley Halpern, GlobeMed Executive Director

Twitter: @bradleyhalpern

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