An advice often given to new freshmen on campus is to get involved and find something you’re passionate about. That is exactly what Rafa Rahman ’16 did when she first arrived at MIT.
Over the last four years, Rahman has been a part of MIT’s campus chapter of GlobeMed. GlobeMed
is a national group that promotes health equity, social justice, and awareness of global health issues through international long-term partnerships with grassroot organizations. MIT’s chapter works with the nonprofit Hope through Health
that supports HIV/AIDS clinics in Togo, West Africa.
As a member, former Co-President, and two-year Global Health Education Co-Director at GlobeMed, Rahman learned that health is not just about medicine, but that medicine is part of the broader structures, institutions, and policies that affect the health of each individual.
“GlobeMed has opened me to a world which requires empathy and compassion towards the struggles that people may be dealing with, which I feel has translated to my experience as a member of the MIT community.”
Her experiences from GlobeMed has transformed her initial career path since the start of freshman year. She first came to MIT to become a physician scientist with a MD-Ph.D, but now she plans to complete a MD-MPH and work at the interface of medicine and health policy.
GlobeMed allowed Rahman to pursue her interests that aligned with her career goals, professional ambitions, and personal story.
Rahman’s family immigrated to the United States from Bangladesh when she was less than a year old. Her interest in global health was sparked after witnessing and experiencing health disparties during a trip back to Bangladesh to receive medical care.
“I firmly believe that every individual has immense potential to positively impact themselves and the world around them,” she said. “Sometimes, certain circumstances can hold them back. I want to work towards breaking down these barriers when poor health or poor access to healthcare is the culprit.”
MIT students have been working to increase the technological capacity of HIV/AIDS clinics through the improved computer literacy of clinic workers, the transference of health records into electronic formats, and the development of CommCare, a mobile health data collection device for clinic workers visiting patients’ homes. Students work remotely from campus during the school year and on the ground during summers and IAPs while also raising upwards of $11,000 a year for clinic needs such as pharmacy inventory.
Rahman has seen this unrelenting will and spirit from members of GlobeMed’s partners in Togo despite constant adversity. In a community where an HIV diagnosis has been typically thought of as a death sentence, the community has maintained hope. Rahman continues to be positive in pursuit of helping others in these situations because her family has been through their own struggles and triumphs in life.
“My parents worked extremely hard to improve our situation, and the life we now live is a far cry from where we started out. I think when we first moved, few would have expected for me to end up where I am now, so that belief in raw potential comes in large part from my own story.”
Rahman’s concerted effort to pay it forward through this program has taught her the skills to be a leader. She hopes through her mentorship and understanding in the value of equipping and impassioning young GlobeMed participants will continue to help grow this organization.
“Simply taking the time to sit down and informally talk to a younger member and get to know them a bit can be the biggest investment,” she said. “I am impressed by the huge impacts we strive to affect despite still being undergraduate students. It is refreshing to see a group of students able to take a step back from what can often be a very focused, technical learning environment in order to use their skills and abilities to address big issues.”
Additional contributions by Stephanie Tran.