“Changemakers” is our series exploring how young people, connected and globally aware, are working to change the world. If you know a young person (think “Millennial” or “Gen Y”) committed to change, global health and the fight against poverty, please send the person’s name, short bio and contact info to Jake Ellison at email@example.com.
By Lisa Stiffler, special correspondent
Oh, the shiny objects that grab the attention of teens: the cute kid in English class, celebrity gossip, the hot new social media site. For Krycia Cowling, her interest was sparked by somewhat loftier causes, namely global health.
“I’ve wanted to do this kind of work since I was in high school,” Cowling said. “The one thing I knew about (global health) was AIDS patients in Africa. I think it was one of the first global health headlines I was exposed to.”
In October Cowling moved to Delhi where she’s doing research extracting information from databases and surveys for the nonprofit Public Health Foundation of India. Before her move she’d visited India only for a week. So far, it’s proving to be a good fit.
“It’s definitely shocking when you get here,” she said. “It’s overwhelming and over stimulating, but it’s funny how quickly it becomes your new normal.”
Here’s why and how Cowling got involved in global health and development:
Q: Why is “global health and the fight against poverty” an important issue for you?
“For me, the main thing is that I feel that we can do so much better. There’s so much technology and so much wealth in the world. That people don’t get enough food or get a shot they need, that’s just so ridiculous.”
Q: What personal experience inspired you? What idea is driving your commitment?
Cowling’s father worked for an oil company, and growing up she moved around a lot, from Europe to Texas to Alaska. While earning her undergraduate and masters degrees she traveled to Zimbabwe, Ecuador and Indonesia to learn about and work on health issues.
For Cowling, it doesn’t matter whether the person in need is from her hometown or lives in an unpronounceable village nine time zones away. She believes that our shared humanity makes everyone’s life important.
Q: Do you think your generation is more attuned to global issues such as global health and the fight against poverty?
“We are,” Cowling said. “Things have become more connected more quickly. And being more connected just makes you more aware. The more connected you feel to people and to things, the more you care about them. It’s not out of sight and out of mind.”
Q: Do you think your generation will make a difference?
“Yes. The greater awareness is the first step. Hopefully that leads to a shift in priorities. It will take time, and patience is hard to have.”
Q: How did you land a job in this field?
While Cowling was working on her master in public health degree at the University of Washington, she also had a fellowship at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which is affiliated with the UW. One of the IHME faculty members also worked with the Public Health Foundation of India, and when a position there opened up, she applied.
Q: If you were to advise someone on how to get a job in this field, what would you tell them?
“A big part of it is familiarizing yourself with the global health landscape and reading a lot and going to lectures and getting familiar with what people and organizations are active in the field.”
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