How GlobeMed Works With Students to Alleviate Global Health Disparities


SEATTLE — GlobeMed is an organization focused on alleviating global health disparities by partnering college students with grassroots organizations across the world. Several organizations dedicate funding and resources to improve global health, but few form connections with the communities they serve and provide educational opportunities for students at the same time.

GlobeMed Prevalence 

GlobeMed has 59 university chapters across the United States, with over 2,000 undergraduates involved nationwide. Each chapter is partnered with a grassroots health organization in Africa, Asia or the Americas. During the school year, GlobeMed chapters keep in touch with their partner organization and fundraise in the U.S. to help the organization achieve its goals. Members of GlobeMed chapters also educate fellow students about global health issues.

According to Balungile Belz, the communications director of GlobeMed, it’s not just students interested in health or medicine who sign up to be a part of a GlobeMed chapter. GlobeMed takes a broader approach when considering global health. The organization considers all aspects of a person’s life to be important to their health and the students involved do not administer hands-on medical services. Therefore, students with all kinds of backgrounds and interests who care about global health disparities are welcome at GlobeMed.

Grassroots On-Site Work 

Students also have the opportunity to join the GROW (Grassroots On-Site Work) program, which allows one to eight students per chapter to intern overseas with their chapter’s partner organization. This helps the organizations fill critical gaps with the work of impassioned and talented students, and also builds the relationship between chapter and partner. The organizations and the students can evaluate the progress they make and plan for the future of the partnership.

The internships are also an educational opportunity for students to better understand the issues surrounding global health disparities.

GlobeMed was founded by a group of Northwestern University students, including Peter Luckow and Victor Roy. Roy was inspired to create the organization while in college at Northwestern. At school, Roy was involved with an organization that fundraised throughout the year and sent medical supplies to Ghana. One summer, Roy traveled to Ghana to see the effects of his group’s efforts. To his surprise, all the medical supplies that were shipped to Ghana were not being used. Instead, they were being stockpiled in a warehouse.

Continuously “Grow”ing 

It turned out that the medical supplies sent were not exactly what the group in Ghana needed. However, they were afraid to say no to their donors, in fear they might scare them off. From this experience, Roy learned how important it was to listen to those you wish to help. This was the idea behind GlobeMed. The primary question is “How can we help you?”

Because of this, GlobeMed does not seek out organizations to help. Those that want to become partners with GlobeMed can fill out an application. Then, the organizations and the chapters create a framework around how the partnership will work. Belz told The Borgen Project that everything in this process “is prefaced by what the grassroots community needs.”

The ultimate goal for GlobeMed is to fill in the existing gaps in health needs so the partnership between the chapter and the local organization is no longer necessary. While the partnerships usually last a few years, the ideal relationship ends with the communities or organizations becoming self-sustainable. This coincides with GlobeMed’s goal to empower communities and the people within them to thrive.

Through empowering students to engage with international organizations, GlobeMed built a movement of people who believe in health and justice for all. By letting grassroots organizations take the lead in determining what type of change is needed in a community, GlobeMed harnessed that energy to ensure positive and effective outcomes.

Brock Hall
Photo: Flickr


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