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Dornsife Global Development Scholar Reflects on Experience Working with World Vision in Ghana

Drexel students hearing from WVI leader
Photo credit: Ari Downs

September 1, 2022

Nahian Ehtesham is a senior public health major within the Pennoni Honors College and the Dornsife School of Public Health and is projected to graduate in the spring of 2023. She is also a Dornsife Global Development Scholar (DGDS), a program based on a mentorship model that allows students to work alongside World Vision International on humanitarian efforts.

For Ehtesham, pursuing a career in global health was always a goal of hers and her family set the example. “My grandfather was a deputy director for the World Health Organization and my parents are doctors,” she shared. “I have always envisioned a career where I can integrate my love for medical science and global health. As someone pursuing to go to medical school, cultural competency is my main priority. Having the capability of treating patients from different racial and ethnic backgrounds is a total game changer in the medical field because it heavily improves patient health outcomes and satisfaction.”

Ahead of her senior year, Ehtesham was able to partake in a trip to Ghana as a DGDS in June 2022. Initially when accepted to the DGDS program in 2020, she was prepared to take her public health education abroad in Senegal, but this was cancelled unfortunately due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With COVID safety measures in place, Ehtesham finally had the opportunity to work alongside World Vision for a week in Bolgatanga, Ghana. Along with her fellow DGDS cohort members, she learned about World Vision’s community-based sanitation development projects throughout the country. They heard from local program directors and medical professionals as well as the people they serve.

"This was an exciting experience as I got to see my non-academic and academic worlds collide," Ehtesham said. "There were many times where I could apply what I learned in my public health classes to the experience. Getting first-hand experience of community members talking about the water sanitation projects is truly incredible and a once in a life opportunity. I am incredibly happy I got to learn the importance of global health and community engagement, especially in a rural setting."

Ehtesham appreciated the DGDS program’s openness to discussion and innovative ideas. “Every time we visited a community, we would spend time debriefing our observations and exchanging ideas on certain policies we would support. This challenged each of us to think critically and accept that there is not one correct answer,” she shared.

Upon returning, the scholars were each given a research assignment about water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH)-related health outcomes. Ehtesham took this opportunity to learn and write about the impact WASH programs can have on maternal and child health (MCH) specifically. Through this assignment, she researched effective interventions used by countries in Africa such as the Clean and Safe Healthy Facility (CASH) model. This model was started in Ethiopia and the goal was to create more health facilities and reduce the number of healthcare-associated infections. This model was successful as the average infection prevention and overall patient safety dramatically increased from 46 percent to 77 percent. Additionally, the initiative led to 52 percent of the health facilities having piped water.

Another highlight of her time at Drexel was partaking in the Macy Undergraduate Leadership Fellows Program at the College of Nursing and Health Professions. “Being a Macy Fellow has been a challenging yet rewarding experience. I have learned a great deal about myself, my strengths and weaknesses, and also what makes me a unique leader,” she shared. You can read more about her experience here.

After completing her bachelor’s degree in public health, Ehtesham hopes to pursue a medical degree like her parents, and become specifically a primary care physician, and practice in Bangladesh. “I am grateful to see how far I have come as a student both academically and personally,” she shared.