My MCC Story by Eva Mendelson

Eva and Dr. Vanessa Kerry

Eva and Dr. Vanessa Kerry

Today we invited Eva Mendelson to share how MCC2011 changed her life. You can experience this great event of student leaders coming together and sharing--and sometimes focusing--their passions. Apply to be a delegate here and join the movement

Walking around the career fair at the Millennium Campus Conference (MCC), I felt like a kid in the candy store with no money. I wanted to grab the opportunities that were surrounding me, but I felt like I had nothing to offer. Many of the internships and volunteer opportunities there were phenomenal but as a nursing student, it didn’t directly apply to the things I was learning in school. I was having trouble finding a way to connect my passion for nursing with my interests in global health.

It was a month before this day that I set out for my first MCC experience on a chilly morning in October of 2011. Our traffic ridden 8-hour car ride seemed like a thing of the distant past when I felt the rush of excitement after collecting my name tag and meeting incredible student leaders from Haiti, Uganda, India and Mexico. I felt like the world was at my finger tips—that was before my career fair experience.

There were options for nurses to do work in global health, but it was mostly opportunities for short-term care delivery. I could spend a few months treating patients in Sudan or Honduras, but in the end, would it be enough to make lasting change? How could I become a part of strengthening health systems overall? I knew this problem could be solved, but I didn’t know how —until I sat in the Harvard auditorium the last day of the MCC Conference.

I remember feeling worried because my friend Nina had just forgotten her expensive digital camera in the breakfast room. As I watched her bolt out of the auditorium through the aisles of students, I barely noticed the keynote speaker come on stage. I quickly became less distracted with the words “…and I’m a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital” A physician? I wasn’t expecting a clinician to be on stage. But she was about to speak of an idea that changed my life.

The speaker, Dr. Vanessa Kerry, told the story of her vision to build a sustainable health care workforce by training physicians and nurses in resource limited settings. She described  standing up at a Kennedy School Peace Corps forum in the fall of 2010 asking for support to send U.S. nurses and doctors to train others overseas. In front of an audience of hundreds of people, the Peace Corps representative answered, “Yes.” She described her plan to move forward and, with the newfound support of the Peace Corps, create a unique program that would send medical and nursing professionals for yearlong volunteer placements as educators in countries that faced critical shortages of healthcare workers. They would provide essential training in order to strengthen the capacity of the local healthcare workforce.

This model would allow students to go on and train more clinicians who would train even more…eventually allowing resource limited areas to one day have enough health professionals to care for themselves.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing… this exists? I thought, “this sounds just like what I had been thinking of…but better and more thought out!” It was an incredible moment for me- all of the puzzle pieces finally fit together. This is where I could see myself taking my nursing career. This was how I could incorporate my nursing skills and contribute to a sustainable future in global health.

Over the next two years I listened, read and watched as this simple idea bloomed into the organization that is now Seed Global Health. In partnership with the Peace Corps and the Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Seed has formed the Global Health Service Partnership (GHSP), whose purpose is to cultivate sustainable health systems by training a new generation of physicians and nurses. Currently, GHSP volunteers serve at partner nursing and medical institutions in Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda to help address the shortage of faculty. Their method is simple: partner schools request a faculty specialty, whether it be Pediatrics, Women’s health, Surgery or Obstetrics, and Seed Global Health finds a professional to fill that need.

I knew I wanted to get more involved in the organization, but in order to be a volunteer, you have to have a least three years of clinical experience plus a master’s degree, so I was far from being qualified. Regardless, I sent a message to their general email asking if they had opportunities for undergraduates. Half a year later, I was contacted for an internship interview. Today, I am working for the organization under the direction of Dr. Vanessa Kerry, whose vision continues to grow. I am so proud to be a part of it.  

Lessons Learned:

1. Maybe your idea already exists

Had I not learned about Seed Global Health, I may never have focused on creating my own ideas before looking at what was already out there. Lots of us are focused on starting our own organizations and letting our ideas to make the world a better place come alive. But there is more then one way to do this. There is much to be said about finding organizations that have a similar vision as you, and working to become a part of it. You will benefit from joining forces with others, while still bringing your own ideas to the table.

2. It’s never too early to get involved

Even though I was years away from being qualified to become a GHSP volunteer, I still asked if there were ways to get involved. You don’t have to wait until you are done with school to get involved in the causes you care about. If there doesn’t seem to be a way, it will never hurt to ask.

3. Go to the Millennium Campus Conference

No matter your field of interest; health, finance, business or communications, there is always something for you at MCC. If you care about the millennium development goals, there is a way for you to get involved, so keep looking