Sojung Yi’s deep interest in global health has taken her to various places around the world. After dedicating a summer in high school to nutrition education in the Dominican Republic, she pursued opportunities in public health in Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, and Brazil during her undergraduate career. Now the fourth-year medical student is back at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences after a year of global health work made possible by the GW Lazarus Scholars in Health Care Delivery program.
Through their philanthropy, Gerald Lazarus, MD ’63, and his wife, Audrey Jakubowski Lazarus, PhD, established the Lazarus Scholars in Health Care Delivery program in 2006 to help medical students pursue extraordinary educational opportunities in health care. Students apply in the spring of their second year of medical school, and awardees receive funding during their remaining time in school. Twelve scholarships have been awarded so far.
Yi used the generous scholarship to take a year away from medical school for a research associate position with the Harvard Program in Global Surgery and Social Change (PGSSC), which she earned for the 2016–17 academic year. During her research year, Yi spent seven months in Kigali, Rwanda, and three months in São Paulo, Brazil, learning about the shifting global health field and developing research projects in global surgery and emergency medicine.
“I’m thankful for the Lazarus scholarship because it allowed me to even consider taking a dream opportunity that would have been otherwise unattainable,” Yi said. “I was very excited to discover the PGSSC as a unique opportunity to revisit the global health field and to learn new skill sets, but knew that I could do it only if I could find an appropriate scholarship to cover the travel and living expenses that the year required.”
She said the best part of the research year was living and working in Kigali, and the people she met while there.
“[T]his experience was the first time I could apply a nascent clinical lens to global health, and it was incredibly humbling to work in such variable-resource environments with providers who care deeply about health equity,” she said. “I hope to continue building a career serving not only my individual patients, but also the most vulnerable communities and health systems.”
Yi also wanted to pay her experience forward by offering advice to other SMHS students looking for similar scholarship opportunities. She spoke to students in Ross Hall on Oct. 31 in a lecture titled “Finding Your Year Away.” During the lecture, Yi told students about her scholarship, how she chose the program she felt suited her interests best, and offered tips for the application processes.
“I feel lucky things came together; it took a lot of preparation and the right timing,” she said.