Global reach: She wants to open a health center for LGBTQ+ care

Jaila Allen ’21 sought a new perspective on gender and sexuality by studying abroad in Copenhagen

Jaila AllenPhoto/Jaila Allen

Jaila Allen '21

Jaila Allen ’21 wants to serve the LGBTQ+ community by one day opening a health center that helps individuals come to terms with their identity.

Her path to realizing that vision is making a stop this semester in Copenhagen, where she is studying abroad and learning about the Danish healthcare system and the country’s views on gender equity and human rights.

“I felt it was important for me to see how my area of study is implemented in another country,” Allen, a Health: Science, Society, and Policy (HSSP) and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies double-major, told BrandeisNOW.

“Denmark has a reputation of being a welfare state, with resources such as ‘free’ access to hospitals, paid extended maternity leave and education,” Allen said. “I wanted to see if this country lived up to its reputation. Also, with Copenhagen being known as one of the most progressive cities in the world, I wanted to experience their views of queer people and people of color first-hand.”

Allen’s program, DIS-Copenhagen, offers courses about Denmark’s healthcare system and the country’s culture toward human rights, gender equity and sexuality.

“In these classes, we compare Denmark to both the U.S. and other Scandinavian countries to gain a more holistic understanding of these topics in relation to Denmark,” Allen said. “For me, it’s important to see how other countries implement various healthcare strategies.”

Allen, who is from Atlanta, Georgia, knew she wanted to add a global context to her interest in healthcare and LGBTQ+ rights well before she arrived at Brandeis. She also prioritized the strength of schools’ study abroad programs when she toured colleges, knowing that eventually she wanted to experience a semester overseas.

“I’m from a neighborhood where everyone looked, sounded, and acted like me,” Allen said. “I thought it was essential to gain other perspectives on life. One of the things I have enjoyed about Copenhagen so far is the willingness of the people here to understand my story and my background. I’ve met many people who have asked me about how my background relates back to the work that I want to do in the future,” she added.

Allen is the recipient of two competitive study abroad scholarships. She was awarded both the Fund for Education Abroad Scholarship, which supports underrepresented students in the U.S. study abroad population, and Gilman Scholarship, which provides students studying abroad with skills to advance national security and economic prosperity.

In her courses at DIS-Copenhagen, Allen has discovered Denmark’s policies focus more on gender equity rather than sexuality or queer issues.

“Denmark, and Scandinavia as a whole, have worked to implement policies such as paid and extended maternal and paternal leave, and have launched campaigns to decrease pay gaps between men and women,” Allen said. “Those have been valuable lessons.”

Allen envisions opening her health center in an urban location. She wants to provide annual check-ups, dental care, and eye exams, as well as medication, adolescent care and specialized services such as counseling, sexual education and STI testing.

“This would be a comprehensive center, as I wanted to provide just about any service someone might need,” said Allen, who also wants the center to emphasize care to teens and young adults. “I want to also focus on people between 12 and 24, which I believe are ages of formative growth in which people shape their identities.”

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