This year, an ambitious, justice-oriented quartet of Yale sophomores inaugurated the nation’s newest chapter of Partners in Health Engage in collaboration with Dwight Hall.
Courtesy of Danielle Frankel
In collaboration with Dwight Hall, Lilia Potter-Schwartz ’26 spearheaded the inauguration of the newest chapter of Partners in Health Engage, an organization that aims to train and equip volunteers in the fight for global health equity.
Operating under the core belief that healthcare is a universal human right, Potter-Schwartz recruited the assistance of Danielle Frankel ’26, Isabel Rancu ’26 and Surabhi Kumar ’26 to build the club’s foundation on campus.
“Over the past eight years, I partnered with a local organization that focused on global educational inequality, specifically in Kenya, to start a student branch that focused on fundraising to support the education of Kenyan secondary and university students, raising awareness about global educational inequality, and connecting American and Kenyan students,” Potter-Schwartz wrote to the News. “As I transitioned into college, I was motivated to find a path to combine my interests in global equality with my interests in the biophysics and public health sphere.”
To realize this vision, the student quartet adopted PIH’s mission of bringing the “benefits of modern medical science” to those who need them most. According to the PIH website, all chapters of the program cooperate to “cure not only their patients, but also the root causes of rising inequality.”
The national organization was founded in 1987 as a community-based health project to treat people with HIV and AIDS in rural Haiti under the leadership of Paul Farmer and Ophelia Dahlhelpe. The program focused on providing healthcare in the aftermath of natural disasters and strengthening the healthcare system of vulnerable global sectors.
It was at this time that PIH’s emphasis on social justice and medical work emerged, and the organization has since grown to encompass more than 500 members across 61 cities that operate under three general categories: advocacy, fundraising and community-building and engagement.
PIH Engage sponsors different campaigns corresponding to these three pillars, this year directing their fundraising efforts toward the Maternal Center of Excellence in Sierra Leone and their advocacy efforts toward the Paul Farmer Memorial Resolution and Community Health Worker Access Act.
The former is the newest undertaking of Build Health International, a 143-bed facility that provides outpatient, inpatient and surgery services to expectant mothers in the Kono region. The latter serves as a bold “21st century global health solidarity strategy to end poverty, ensure health care as a human right, and address structural, economic, environmental and colonial harms that undermine the health and well-being of people around the world,” according to the U.S. House of Representatives.
To assist in these efforts, the Yale PIH Engage leadership board is working to build an interactive network across various schools on campus, drawing in members from Yale College, the School of Medicine, the School of Public Health and the School Of Nursing.
“We really hope to engage with a wide variety of perspectives and educate ourselves in the best way possible, which comes from complex and interwoven academic interests,” Frankel told the News. “It would be very valuable to have an interdisciplinary approach, complete with students in history, political science, economics, global affairs and statistics. This is not just a club for [pre-meds].”
However, the group also hopes to reach beyond the Yale population by involving local nonprofits and community organizations interested in advancing access to adequate, affordable and sustainable healthcare.
The group hopes to use the talents and the wide range of knowledge of its participants as the year progresses to most effectively contribute to the reduction of medically avoidable deaths and global health inequality.
“Because we are a new group and no one has yet to set a precedent, we get to build the chapter from scratch,” Rancu said. “It’s really exciting to brainstorm activities and outline the program for the year.”
Throughout the year, PIH Engage at Yale hopes to sponsor a Giving Tuesday fundraiser, several global health professor panels and a polar plunge fundraiser.
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