More than 19,000 Rutgers graduates from the university’s 29 schools and colleges recently received degrees, certificates, and diplomas in over 550 programs of study. Many of them are now embarking upon career paths that will shape their lives—and the world around them. For those who want to incorporate global health into their professional pursuits, there are plenty of opportunities to consider.
“Global health is much more than medicine. There are countless jobs and professions that are connected to improving the health of people around the world,” says Richard Marlink, the director of Rutgers Global Health Institute. “Yes, you can become a doctor or a nurse. But you also can have a global health career in environmental science, or engineering, or nonprofit management, or food systems research, or finance. The list goes on. Global health is about addressing inequities in health, no matter what field of work or what location of that work.”
The institute’s new Career Exploration webpage offers resources for navigating the working world with a global health mindset. Experienced professionals also are invaluable sources of information and inspiration. Here, three Rutgers alumni working in different fields—media, technology, and community engagement—share their thoughts on how to make a meaningful impact through a career related to global health.
In the Media and on a Mission
Contemporary communicator S. Mitra Kalita graduated from Rutgers in 1998 with a double major in journalism and mass media as well as history. Throughout her career as a journalist, editor, and executive for mainstream national and international media, she has explored humanity’s many dimensions.
Those experiences inform her current work as the co-founder and co-publisher of Epicenter-NYC, a community journalism initiative that “started as a newsletter to connect neighbors during the pandemic,” according to its website. Though the impetus for Epicenter was squarely in the realm of global health—helping New Yorkers get vaccinated has been a focus—the media outfit has evolved to serve broader global health values related to social justice, community empowerment, and information access.
Kalita shares her thoughts on learning more and leveraging know-how to impact global health through a career in media and communications:
How can being media savvy help advance global health?
Kalita: Public health systems often rely on flyers and direct mail to communicate. But immigrant communities, for example, are on WhatsApp and WeChat and Signal and Telegram. We need that level of digital sophistication to pervade our public health institutions.
Based on your own experience of finding your way into the realm of global health and public health through journalism, would you recommend that graduates think outside the box when pursuing a career?
Kalita: I think it’s great to look outside the box, but one regret I have is that I have very little grounding in public health, health sciences, or health care administration. I’ve learned by covering the issues as a journalist.
Students interested in media and health would be well served by taking a lot of basic but fundamental classes in a variety of subjects related to health sciences, economics, race, and society to understand the way things are interconnected. And for those who’ve already graduated, I’d suggest reading a lot and pushing yourself to keep learning about different subjects. Curate your news and feeds from a variety of sources. Health touches on everything in the world.
Using Technology to Transform Lives
Stephen Ruhmel is an associate director for Janssen Clinical Innovation, part of Johnson & Johnson. He has a master of public health degree from Rutgers and a bachelor’s degree in information technology from Penn State University.
“My career mission is to dramatically improve health care for underserved populations around the globe, using technology as an enabler,” Ruhmel writes on his LinkedIn profile. Currently, he is leading initiatives in speech biomarkers, conversational artificial intelligence, and machine learning for skin imaging, all of which have the potential to transform health care delivery worldwide.
Ruhmel discusses the skills he considers important across global health professions:
What skills are valuable in your line of work, but also transferrable to other fields related to global health?
Ruhmel: For my short answer, I’d focus more on the tangible skills that you can put on a résumé, like statistics, particularly biostatistics, or data science, especially in artificial intelligence or machine learning. Also, being able to design a research study and run it in full is important experience to have. It’s always incredibly valuable to have people with those hard skills.
Of course, the softer skills are also important. You have to be a strong communicator. You need to be organized and motivated. You need to be able to work well with individuals from all walks of life—global health is a very human field.
Focusing on Local Health Needs
As the director of community health promotion for Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, Mariam Merced makes an impact on global health by working to improve local health. Merced, an alumna of Rutgers’ School of Management and Labor Relations, is responsible for the coordination of accessible and quality preventive health care services and educational programs for diverse communities in Middlesex County, New Jersey.
Merced approaches her work with a health equity mindset, which she also brings to her role as a core professional member of Rutgers Global Health Institute. Having worked in community health promotion for more than 30 years, she finds it “incredibly rewarding.”
Merced talks about working with diverse populations right here in New Jersey:
Much of your work involves engaging with community members and stakeholders to understand their health care and health education needs. What are some of the issues you are addressing through community health promotion?
Merced: In New Jersey, there are large Puerto Rican and Dominican communities in Perth Amboy and Mexican communities from Oaxaca and Puebla here in New Brunswick. Many of these immigrant communities are struggling to integrate themselves into our health care system. Language, for instance, is a major issue. If your ability to communicate with your health provider is limited, then you’re going to have problems following medical advice, taking medications as prescribed, and so on.
Part of our outreach goal is to improve health outcomes by building a bridge between the community and the hospital. We want to help people feel that they’re part of our organization, that they’re working with us. We do that by creating connections, providing access to services, and establishing open and honest communications based on trust and respect with community residents and organizations.
– Leslie Garisto Pfaff
Career Exploration Resources
The pathways to a global health career are diverse. These career resources will help you navigate your professional pursuits with a global health mindset.