Brandeis students Engage in public health around the world

Brandeis students are supporting international public health efforts

Emma Ghalili ‘22 Roman Loper ‘20, standing in front of a window at Skyline with reflectionsPhoto/Mutiara Carney '22

Emma Ghalili ‘22 with Roman Loper ‘20, co-president of PIH Engage at Brandeis.

When Brandeis students make their voices heard, they can tackle injustices around the world.

Partners in Health is a Boston-based nonprofit healthcare organization that aims to bring modern medical science to the poorest parts of the world. PIH has projects in more than ten countries including Liberia, Russia, Haiti, and Mexico. The PIH Engage program focuses on educating college communities on global issues that the nonprofit is working on. Last semester, Emma Ghalili ‘22 launched a chapter of PIH Engage here at Brandeis. 

PIH Engage builds strong teams at universities that attend rallies, town hall meetings, and marches to lobby for public health issues. The club also hosts guest speakers, screens educational movies, and reaches out to state representatives, with its primary emphasis on student advocacy. Ghalili was inspired to bring PIH Engage to Brandeis because she wanted to launch a club dedicated to public health that also connected the university to the world through direct action. PIH Engage has also enabled Brandeis students to collaborate with peers at other Boston-area universities that have their own branches including Northeastern, Tufts, and Harvard.

PIH’s current focus is on advocating for the US’s support of The Global Fund, which backs efforts to reduce HIV and AIDS around the world. At a recent meeting, co-president Roman Loper ‘20 led a letter-writing session where he educated club members on PIH’s support towards The Global Fund, an international partnership designed to accelerate the end of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as epidemics. He helped students find their state representatives’ contact information and gave tips on how to get their messages across. PIH tracks state representatives so that advocates can see who is an ally for a certain issue and who is not. 

Ghalili noted that one of the most rewarding parts of advocacy is seeing elected representatives shift their position when students speak up about a concern. “You can really see the transition,” she remarked. “When people call, when lobbyists get to work, these people become our allies.”

PIH Engage has attracted many students interested in health policy and advocacy. But PIH has ways for people with a variety of interests to get involved. Their goal is to inform people about healthcare issues while allowing them to decide how they want to make a difference. “I want to educate people on what’s going on and then give them many possible ways to help,” Ghalili said. Some of PIH’s most successful events have included a movie screening about tuberculosis that they held on World TB Day, as well as a speech given by Jean Claude Mugunga, Heller MS ‘12, who works for PIH as an advocate for healthcare in low-income regions.

PIH’s most recent event was a movie screening of Bending the Arc, an award-winning documentary about the nonprofit group’s founders and their mission. Moving forward, some of Ghalili’s plans for the club include hosting state representatives to give students the opportunity to ask questions, as well as holding various fundraising events.

Because co-presidents Monica Krishna ‘20 and Roman Loper ‘20 are graduating next spring, PIH plans to hold executive board elections at the beginning of next semester. Ghalili is excited to bring new people onto the team and hopes that this election will give the new club a chance to spread its message on campus. 

PIH Engage Brandeis has an ambitious vision for its future. This includes getting the Waltham community involved in advocacy, making Brandeis students feel connected to the Greater Boston Area, and most importantly giving people who care the opportunity to make a difference. Ghalili wants her fellow students to have the chance to do something about all of the injustices they learn about in class or hear about on the news. “Healthcare is a right that all people should have,” she concluded. “I started PIH because I wanted to feel like I was doing something. There is always something that you can do.”

Categories: Humanities and Social Sciences, Student Life

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