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Undergrad works to engage others in global health solutions

April 29, 2013

As an undergraduate global health student, Lorraine Sekito has already put her education to work to make a positive change in the world.

Last year, she co-founded the ASU chapter of GlobeMed, a nonprofit that partners students with international communities in the common goal of alleviating health disparities around the world.

“The discrepancy between developed and developing nations has an enormous impact on public and individual health,” Sekito says. “There is an intricate web of factors that continue to increase these gaps, and while there has also been an increase in international aid, some foreign aid with good intentions ends badly. I am passionate about finding the most effective solutions without negative outcomes.”

Sekito’s future educational plans are to combine a medical degree with a degree in public health or international development. Her main concerns are increasing access to health care and improving communities’ ability to sustain themselves as new local and global challenges arise.

Born and raised in Manila, Sekito moved to the United States when she was 10.

“It was one of the most emotional and confusing times of my life because I couldn’t comprehend what my parents meant when they said ‘life’ would be so much better in America, a place so far away from what I considered home,” she admits. “Now I understand why my parents uprooted us.”

This personal transition and the related experiences formed the foundation of Sekito’s interest in community development and global health.

“I wanted to learn about the differences between various countries, cultures, each nation's development, its impact on health and the individuals that live in those environments.”  

She found herself drawn to the ASU School of Human Evolution and Social Change’s global health program as a way to study the issues that had greatly influenced her as a child and about which she now feels strongly.

As part of the Culture, Health and Environment Laboratory in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences – which is run by cultural anthropologist and associate professor Amber Wutich – Sekito has worked on a variety of projects that explore the interplay of environment and health. Her primary research focuses on global water riots and involves gathering and analyzing qualitative data to understand the links between water scarcity and geographic location, as well as a number of other factors.

Sekito credits Wutich and her lab experience with expanding her knowledge while helping her build specific, research-intensive skills she can carry forward into graduate school and her career. It was also Wutich’s influence that led Sekito to GlobeMed through a classroom discussion of the group and its tenets.

“Honestly, I cannot rave enough about this organization,” gushes Sekito, who just returned from her second GlobeMed Summit in Evanston, Ill. “Each year they execute the most thrilling and empowering sessions of speakers and discussions. This year the Nobel Peace laureate Leymah Gbowee delivered a powerful speech, along with other inspiring activists like Peter Staley.

"Each year I come out with a stronger sense of purpose and drive for this global health movement, eager to bring all that energy back to our chapter. Aside from the speakers, being surrounded by 400 students from around the country who are passionate about social change is incredibly moving.”

The ASU GlobeMed chapter was matched with ICOD Action Network in Lyantonde, Uganda, in a long-term partnership. Chapter and community members communicate frequently, including Skyping at least twice a month.

Throughout the year, chapter members spearhead efforts to raise funds for a project that they and their Ugandan partners find most imperative for the community, and at the end of the year, a group of students participate in an internship that implements the project. Additionally, ASU GlobeMed hosts events and meetings that supplement members’ knowledge, raise awareness and inspire other students to get involved.

Sekito finds great meaning in her work with GlobeMed and is grateful for the opportunity to grow a chapter on campus.

“ASU is wonderful in its unending support of student-run organizations and fostering students’ abilities to excel outside of the classroom," she says. "Being part of GlobeMed has supplemented my education in a manner that could not have been attained in lecture halls. Being an active student leader has enhanced my opportunities to interact with other students, organizations, general faculty and surrounding communities. I’ve really enjoyed working for a cause while constantly trying to empower other students to embrace their own potential to propel change.”

Although Sekito plans to continue on to medical school, following her graduation this spring she will first spend a couple of years in the workforce. Her aim is to secure a job with a nongovernmental organization and gain some hands-on experience. Eventually, she plans to practice “the most culturally competent and effective medicine” that she can.