“But aren’t you a nurse?”

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Ruth Lee, NUR ’20.

“But aren’t you a nurse?” seemed to be the automatic response, along with the raising of an eyebrow or two, when others heard that I would be interning at the World Medical Association. Though I am a nursing student, I found that studying nursing has added tremendously to my experience at the WMA this summer, which has been everything I had dreamed of and so much more.

I have always known I wanted to be involved in global health, but it was through working at the WMA that I gained a full understanding of why and how the global health field works. Attending the 71st World Health Assembly showed me that it takes coordination to achieve the most effective impact there can be, given the countless actors in this field. It was also insightful to observe first-hand, through the speeches and comments given by representatives and delegates, how global health governance is conducted. I was encouraged to see so many people also engaged and passionate about achieving global health equity.

In addition to the World Health Assembly, I had the opportunity to visit the International Council of Nurses and attend the 38th UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Both were incredible experiences, especially with seeing the intersection of health and human rights as well as learning about issues I would not have been exposed to at Penn. But the UNHRC also brought along feelings of frustration for me at the simple fact that a human rights council is even needed—that basic human rights are not already a given in this world. This kindled a fire in me that will continue to motivate me in pursuing global health equity.

During the internship, I also helped to review and edit WMA policies and resolutions, conduct research and draft comments for WHO resolutions and policies, and draft letters to political leaders about medical ethics issues. Through these, I learned much about medical ethics and the current global health action for issues like the rise of noncommunicable diseases and the decline of physical activity.

While the internship itself held countless invaluable experiences and lessons that I will never forget, I also learned much from my colleagues, people in Geneva, and the city of Geneva itself. The staff and fellow interns at the WMA are some of the most amazing and inspiring people I have ever met. The people I have gotten to know in Geneva—whether through WMA, my housemates, or church—have been so welcoming and open, showing me that humanity crosses all boundaries. As cliché as this sounds, they also immediately made me feel at home in the multicultural and multilingual city of Geneva.

Through my internship experience at the WMA, I have learned considerably more than I had expected—about global health, medical ethics, human rights, as well as about myself. It is because of this summer that I can now clearly articulate my drive for helping achieve global health equity, especially as a future nurse. And I know that without support from Penn Career Services, none of this would have been possible.

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