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Dr. Wilson

How Dr. Wilson Defines Global Health


Interview by GHP Rep, Colette Kirkpatrick

Tell me about your background and your specific field of study:

Growing up as a woman of color in South Texas, Dr. Wilson was always interested in the struggles of racialized minorities. After completing a Bachelor’s of Science in biology and chemistry, Dr. Wilson went on to earn her Master's degree in environmental anthropology with a focus on the intersection of climate change and migrant health. While earning her doctorate in medical humanities, Dr. Wilson focused on global health and ethnographic research, and for the last 15 years she has researched migrant health. Dr. Wilson worked on issues at the U.S. border as well as with Haitian migrants who were displaced into the Dominican Republic. Her research spans from the health of formerly incarcerated individuals to farmers in South India facing climate change, but consistently focuses on how structural violence creates poor health outcomes.

How would you define global health and how do you think it should be approached?

Dr. Wilson defines global health as a field that is far reaching into many different domains. Traditionally global health emphasizes education, research, and practical application of that knowledge. However, if we are to truly tackle global health issues, Dr. Wilson cites that we must move beyond the biomedical model and look more closely at the biosocial aspects of health. It is necessary to look at the underlying drivers of poor health outcomes, and in order to find these roots, global health must confront the social, political, economic, and cultural determinants of health. She is optimistic about the future of global health, as the field is still growing and continues to evolve beyond the biomedical model.

At the moment, do you have any research or projects that you’re working on? If you don’t mind sharing, what are they?

Dr. Wilson is currently working on the Tracking Asylum Seekers Ethnographic Trajectories (TACET) team, spearheaded by Global Health Program Director, Dr. Thomas Csordas. The TACET team aims to ethnographically interview care migrants and refugees, as well as their care providers, in order to better understand their health journeys, how they seek care, and constraints on their health. Dr. Wilson is responsible for overseeing the expansion of TACET research into Texas as she interviews lawyers, clinicians, and social workers who work with migrants. She is also working on a comprehensive literature review of refugee health and putting their health outcomes into social context to find the root drivers of displacement.

What do you hope your GLBH 100 students will take away from the course?

In the last four years we have seen the true power of social media and proliferation of fake news, specifically regarding migrant populations. Dr. Wilson hopes students will come away with the ability to critically analyze and evaluate news sources. She also hopes that students will learn how to contextualize the reasons behind why migrants are originally displaced by understanding health in a social and structural context.

What advice do you have for students pursuing a career in global health?

  • Global health has been on the rise for the past 10 years, now is a great time to get involved!

  • Keep reading and stay informed, especially on topics that you’re passionate about

  • Get involved in local projects, NGO’s, or advocacy groups

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