Though I was not able to attend the meeting with the international students and scholars, I later reached out to Rita Masese, an Associate in Research at the Duke School of Nursing, to discuss her international and professional experiences. Rita is a Kenyan native with a background in medicine from the University of Nairobi and a Masters in Global Health from Duke University, and she is primarily interested in developing and enhancing interventions focused primarily on mitigating disparities within healthcare. Being as I hope to eventually attend medical school and some of my extracurricular involvements have focused specifically on the topic of disparities within the American healthcare system, I was incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to speak with Rita about her experiences.

One of the things that stood out to me was a comment that Rita made on the limited impact that physicians have, which is something that I’ve considered quite extensively. She mentioned that serving as a doctor really only lets one impact the patient in front of them, but she aspired to have a much broader impact within medicine and healthcare, more generally; this is the reason for which she eventually decided upon pursuing a career in global health. Something else that we discussed was how the United States is considered to be the “land of plenty”, but it is not equitable in many ways, especially when it comes to healthcare. Fundamentally, people aren’t familiar with many facets of the healthcare system, and there are also more basic issues such as a lack of transportation to and from clinics or hospitals, which many individuals don’t even consider when thinking about the structural flaws of our system. Rita noted that she believed that one of the biggest issues pervading our healthcare system is that of insurance, and it is particularly salient because many people within the nation are living paycheck-to-paycheck. One can get anything that they want as long as they are able to afford it, but even if an individual is able to access various things, they must be able to continue to access them. The most basic things, such as insulin, are incredibly expensive without insurance, and continued access to such resources is crucial for the wellbeing of many individuals, but this is often overlooked and marginalized.

When speaking about how intercultural competence ties into healthcare and serving as an effective healthcare provider, Rita commented on something that is incredibly important to keep in mind. She mentioned that, although one may be well-meaning in the things that they do and genuinely attempting to help those in other communities, it is of paramount importance to make an effort to see the world through others’ eyes as opposed to how we see it from our own perspective. There are many instances in which groups of people may not actually want the help that you are attempting to offer, and healthcare providers should take the time to interact with and understand the people that they are serving. Rita told me that, “to be more culturally competent is to be more immersed in the culture, to further one’s capacity to be open-minded”, and I certainly agree with this. To put it succinctly, Rita stated that “the point is not to bring fish but to teach people how to fish.”