A Leadership Program for Duke Students with A Global Mindset

Category: EthanB

Final Intercultural Journal Entry

I have learned a number of things throughout my time in the Global Fellows Program, all of which have certainly helped me to further develop my intercultural competency. Namely, the program has allowed me to become a more effective leader in multicultural spaces, acknowledge cultural differences more constructively, and simply become a more culturally aware and receptive individual. I have explored the different types of leadership approaches and what renders each of them successful given contextual and scope-of-oversight differences. Through the program, my communication and teamwork abilities have been enhanced, as well. The experiences that have most significantly contributed to this are organizing events in the Leadership Track, my time with my language partners, and speaking with Rita Masese about topics related to global health and healthcare, more generally.

As someone who hopes to pursue a career within healthcare, intercultural competency is something that is absolutely integral to serving as an effective healthcare worker but is often overlooked in education and the workplace. In moving forward both professionally and personally, I hope to apply many of the things I’ve garnered throughout the Global Fellows Program and continue to work to develop my intercultural skills, communication, and leadership, and I would ultimately like to develop some sort of educational intervention to be used for pre-medical or medical students so as to enhance intercultural competency. I’m not entirely sure what that educational intervention would look like as of now, but it is something that I would like to work on throughout the next year. I think it would also be great to be able to work with future cohorts of Global Fellows and speak about my experiences with intercultural competency in the healthcare setting, in particular. This program has been amazing, and I would like to thank everyone involved for making it so fantastic!

Entry 3 – Intercultural Journal

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.”

Entry 2 – Language Track

It’s been fantastic to meet each of my language partners, though things have been somewhat difficult with COVID. As I had mentioned in my previous reflection, I have a Mandarin, Thai, and Portuguese partner! Since two of my language partners are actually enrolled in graduate / post-graduate programs, there exist some more obvious differences simply due to the age gap between us. A great thing about being partnered with individuals older than myself, though, is that they have been able to afford unique insight and perspectives regarding various topics, and most of our conversations have not necessarily focused explicitly upon each of our cultures. In my opinion, one of the best parts about the language partner component of the Global Fellows Program is simply being able to connect with someone with these idiosyncratic perspectives and develop new friendships.

In terms of more cultural similarities and differences, one focus of some of my conversations has been the notion of learning a second language from a young age. In much of the world, English has come to be a hegemonic and necessary language, but this results in a sort of linguistic complacency among many American citizens; few people are motivated to actually learn another language and attempt to become fluent, and this greatly constrains the possibilities for cultural enrichment and more intimate cross-cultural interactions. In many other countries, though, individuals are taught their native language as well as English from a very early age, and this proficiency in multiple languages opens numerous doors. These conversations have led me to consider how people from other countries are required to assimilate into American culture in numerous ways much more so than I have before, particularly in the context of language. It is unbelievable to me that many American citizens view speaking a non-English language within the United States as somehow disrespectful and ridiculous, but I think that our educational system partially contributes to these disparities; by not requiring any level of proficiency in another language, the English hegemony is only perpetuated and exacerbated within this country, even though being able to speak another language is an amazingly invaluable skill.

Since I hope to pursue a career as a physician, the topic of medicine and the perceptions of doctors arose with two of my language partners. Within the United States, doctors are respected and occupy a position of considerable social status, but this is not the case within some other countries. In some cases, doctors are actually looked down upon and arguably not respected at all. As of recently, this has been incontrovertibly linked to the contention surrounding COVID-19 and the vaccine, but I hadn’t considered that doctor’s may be viewed poorly in other places in the world given how they are typically seen in America. I’m thankful to be a part of this program because the conversations that I have had through the language partner component have been immensely insightful and thought-provoking.

Entry 1 – Language Track

Our discussion of what makes an effective leader – particularly within the context of global leadership – as part of our first event for the Language Track was quite interesting. In reviewing various definitions of what constitutes global leadership and identifying some integral competencies that many renowned leaders have had in common, it became evident how these things will be important for me as I move forward. I hope to ultimately become a physician in an underserved community, and, with this in mind, some of the core competencies that were identified were cultural awareness and sensitivity, developing and maintaining relationships, effectively communicating, the ability to contend with ambiguity, and bridging intercultural communication gaps, which are all exceedingly important in navigating patient interactions and serving as an effective and compassionate healthcare professional. I have also undertaken a considerable amount of non-profit work, even founding my own substance use/addiction advocacy organization, The June Group, and these leadership qualities are indispensable when piloting community partnerships and implementing new programs or initiatives. After graduating from Duke, I hope to expand the scope of my non-profit while also pursuing a career in healthcare, and I believe that everything that was discussed in our first event is relevant to such endeavors.

In reflecting upon what has helped me to foster some of the aforementioned characteristics, I think that much of the volunteer work that I have done within the various communities that I have been a part of has been most impactful. I have done a considerable amount of work with underrepresented minority groups, especially within the context of substance use, and it is incredibly important to espouse each of the core competencies that I previously mentioned so as to most profoundly and empathetically aid those in need. I will certainly be prioritizing the further development of these skills in the future, and I hope to do so by actively seeking out opportunities to interact with individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds. My focus will likely be related to my non-profit work, as I’ve mentioned, but there are certainly many ways through which one can develop these “leadership” skills; frankly, many of these core competencies are important simply to become a more compassionate, culturally aware, and well-rounded individual, regardless of their relevance to leadership.

Intercultural Reflection – F21 Leadership Track

In looking back at my intercultural journal entry from the beginning of the Fall semester, my primary goals were to further develop my intercultural competency and leadership abilities, as well as simply connect with other individuals from diverse backgrounds. Upon completing the leadership component of the Global Fellows Program (GFP), I can truly say that it has exceeded my expectations and ambitions. As I reflect on this past semester and my experiences within the leadership track, more generally, I think that it would be most effective to speak to each of my goals independently.

The first thing that we were tasked with was completing the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), and I discovered that my developmental orientation was minimization, meaning that I tend to seek “common ground” and minimize differences in interacting with those of varying cultural backgrounds. Frankly, I believe that every event and workshop held in conjunction with the GFP helped me to further my intercultural awareness so as to more wholeheartedly embrace cultural differences and recognize them as a source of immense opportunity for learning and broadening my own worldview. The Global Trivia Night was an incredible opportunity to interact with individuals hailing from cultures across the entire globe while also exercising leadership within a culturally heterogenous space comprising many different leadership and collaborative orientations. Through these experiences, I have greatly developed my intercultural competency, and it would be very interesting to retake the IDI in order to see what my current developmental orientation is; I think that I would likely fall within the acceptance orientation, which is certainly progress and would fulfill one of my goals from the beginning of the semester.

Beyond developing more personal qualities and abilities, I was able to connect with many different people. It was amazing to work alongside everyone in the 2021-2022 GFP cohort, and my favorite part of the program thus far is likely the Language Partner (LP) component. I met with my LP nearly every week, and we have certainly become good friends. It was fantastic to learn about another culture that I have very little exposure to, and it was also great to help one another navigate such a cultural exchange. Not only did I learn a great deal about the culture in which he grew up, but I was also able to help him to understand various aspects of American culture, particularly within the esoteric realm of higher education in the United States. I plan on continuing to meet with my LP from the Fall throughout the Spring semester, and he is someone that I would hope to stay in touch with even beyond my time at Duke.

The GFP has been exceptional, and I think that this is an amazing program. I have been ecstatic with how things have been going thus far, and I’m extremely excited to partake in the Language Track in the Spring semester. As I’ve mentioned, my favorite part of the program has probably been the LP component, and I am really looking forward to interacting with my LPs and undertaking everything else that the GFP has to offer moving forward.

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