Stephanie Goodman ’15: A Fulbright Scholar of Our Own
When tragedy strikes, many of us get locked up in grief while others, like Santa Clara alumna Stephanie Goodman ’15, get busy figuring out how to make sure it won’t happen again.
For Stephanie, the event that inspired her upcoming Fulbright Scholar trip to Ghana happened when she spent the summer of 2014 there with the Global Fellows Program, a University program that aims to foster global citizens of competence, conscience, and compassion through an emphasis on service, academics, and leadership.
She was working in the critical care unit at a hospital in Ghana when a six-year-old boy was brought in on a gurney with severe brain trauma after a school building collapsed on him. Instead of following what the usual protocols would have been back in the U.S. – as she experienced as a volunteer EMT on campus at Santa Clara – she saw the process slow down when it should have been speeding up.
The slowdown was about money, because the boy’s parents – like many families in Ghana – had no insurance and literally had to pay out of pocket for each individual service before the treatment would move forward.
They were able to pay for the X-ray, but when a CT scan was ordered of his brain, they had no additional cash to offer. The hospital staff advised them to go back to their village and ask neighbors to chip in to cover the costs. Fortunately, the neighbors stepped up.
In reading the brain scan, though, it became clear that the boy was suffering from a terminal brain bleed that could only be remedied by drilling a hole in his skull to relieve pressure.
But the boy died before the surgery could be funded and performed.
Stephanie witnessed this situation and, after processing the emotion of all that happened, couldn’t help but think strategically about how this tragedy could have been prevented once he had reached the hospital.
“I couldn’t stand by and let this type of thing continue knowing I could do something about it,” Stephanie explained.
So she activated the skills she had started acquiring while working as a research assistant to her political science professor and mentor, Dr. Naomi Levy, who expanded her training to include not just quantitative research but qualitative.
In other words, this moment allowed her to get a true firsthand feeling for the intersection of her double major in public health and political science.
Her interest in public health comes as no surprise to anyone who knows her. “I grew up accompanying my dad, who is a doctor of pulmonology, on his weekend rounds and was able to observe many of his colleagues’ lung surgeries. Those experiences made quite an impact,” Stephanie reflects.
Political science took a little longer to become a focal point, though she had always been politically minded. It was after the Introduction to Comparative Politics class by Dr. Levy in the fall quarter of her first year that she started noticing how the concepts she learned there were a great supplement to everything she would want to do in a career.
During the rest of her four years of mentorship at the hands of Levy, Stephanie gained a deep understanding of capacity building. The concept is summed up by the Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Unlike the well-intended efforts of countries that step in to offer aid, which helps only as long as the aid workers are present, the idea is to work with the people who will use the new systems to design one that will continue to thrive in the absence of the aid provider.
Enter Stephanie’s proposal.
She will return to Ghana to evaluate the effect of enrollment in Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme on trauma-related mortality, and examine impediments to enrollment.
Dr. Levy has every confidence that Stephanie will be successful in affecting change. “Not only has Stephanie designed her proposed project with her own interests in mind, she has also used her knowledge of the Ghanaian health system to frame a vitally important research question: what are the causes and consequence of differential health insurance enrollment in Ghana,” says Levy.
One small indication of this question’s importance is the immediacy of the response of support she received to her initial inquiry letter to Prof. Robert Quansah, member of the World Health Organization Trauma Group working in Ghana.
“Clearly, this project is well-poised to provide important implications for the delivery of health services in Ghana. Moreover, it has the potential to inform both the policy-making about and implementation of health insurance systems in developing countries worldwide,” adds Levy.
Her next step, however, is to keep honing the research skills she learned at Santa Clara by conducting a country survey on Ghana that examines the people and their levels of employment, insurance status, and health—the variables that will help her drill down and examine the barriers that can be eliminated for a healthier life for the people of Ghana.