Brandeis gave Danielle Gaskin ’18 a bird’s-eye view on global health

Leader, singer, public health activist. Brandeis took Danielle Gaskin ’18 beyond borders to discover more about preventative care in medicine.

danielle gaskinPhoto/Mike Lovett

Danielle Gaskin '18

Even before she arrived on campus via Laurel, Maryland in the fall of 2014, Danielle Gaskin ’18 knew she wanted to pursue a career in public health, though Brandeis widened her perspective more than expected.

The now-senior and Health: Science, Society and Policy (HSSP) and International and Global Studies (IGS) double-major has certainly stuck with her plan: she will graduate in May and then work toward a PhD in either International Health or Population and Family Health.

“I actually came to Brandeis for the HSSP program,” Gaskin said. “I also knew I wanted to go into Global Studies, so the interdisciplinary factor to HSSP really stuck out to me. I think public health is very collaborative, so it was interesting to see how you could encompass health courses at Brandeis with sociology, anthropology and international relations.”

The number of options in front of Gaskin prompted her to think differently about what a career in public health might look like. Originally, she considered the premed track.

But Gaskin made up her mind as a first-year when, for one week in April, she participated in Global Medical Brigades in Honduras, where she worked alongside doctors to help provide medical care to local people.

“I wanted to see what interventions I could make as a full-time physician, but Medical Brigades taught me that for my personality, being a doctor would be very limiting,” Gaskin said.

“Doctors deliver care at the time of a problem,” she added. “I wanted to see what would happen if you could prevent someone from going to a doctor. From a U.S. perspective, where I think our healthcare system is convoluted and inequitable, I want to see what I can do from a preventative standpoint.”

Gaskin, who wanted to further meld HSSP and IGS, also worked with the study abroad office to find a semester-long program overseas to enable her to to pursue her interests in learning about other health systems. She ultimately chose to study in Chiang Mai, Thailand during her junior year and pursued a health-focused internship at a community health center. There, she helped provide care to new mothers and their infants.

Gaskin learned that the Thai health system is still developing but shows promising signs like a declining infant mortality rate. Her experience in Thailand has given her even more appreciation for the complexities of healthcare on a global scale; she’s now excited to further explore what she’s learned in graduate school.

But Gaskin is also trying to enjoy her final months as a Brandeis student. When she’s not researching public health or attending class, chances are she’s taking voice lessons in her choral music course or leading activities as co-president of the Brandeis Black Students Organization (BBSO).

“I have a soft spot for choral music, I really love it,” Gaskin said. “I do it for fun. I love learning about Brahms and Leonard Bernstein, who of course is well-known to Brandeis. We sing a few of his pieces.”

Meanwhile, as BBSO co-president, Gaskins is following in the footsteps of her father, Darrell ’83, who also served as the club’s president. On Feb. 10, BBSO hosted “Shades of Blackness,” a cultural event that celebrated the artistic talents of the black community at Brandeis.

The community at Brandeis – as much as the university’s academics – is what drew Gaskin to Waltham in the first place.

Well, her dad played a part, too.

“I remember we were in Boston looking at universities and he suggested we look at Brandeis,” Gaskin explained. “I remember going on a tour and our tour guide was this very outgoing, charismatic black student. I don’t even remember his name, but I remember him saying hello to his friends mid-tour, tagging people and continuing an inside joke while he was talking to us. It was genuine, not at all staged…and that’s what I love, the camaraderie, the friendship, the community.”

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