By Anna Allen '16

When most people think about healthcare, they think about doctors, appointments, prescriptions, and hospitals. This is healthcare, but only one side of it.

Senior Charlsey Graham’s healthcare and society major and business management minor have led her to understand and participate in healthcare in a way that is more than just medicine. In particular, a Civic Fellowship allowed Graham to spend the summer researching public-health issues under the guidance of her faculty mentor, Dr. Rick Mayes of the political science department, while interning with the Global Health Initiative (GHI) at the University of Louisville in Kentucky (UofL), where she shadowed appointments, promoted education and prevention, and managed social media and web design.

GHI is an initiative that fights global poverty and widespread infectious diseases across the United States. The initiative is primarily funded by the Vaccine and International Travel Center at UofL. “It’s a place for local people who are traveling to come to learn about how to prevent getting sick while abroad,” says Graham. The clinic offers numerous vaccinations for those traveling abroad, green card applicants, and refugees. It also provides HIV/AIDS care and support, which overlapped with Graham’s interests in healthcare.

“Every couple of weeks, I would go shadow the clinic and sit in appointments with patients and learn about the policy,” she says.

She found it to be one of the most challenging parts of her internship. “It was frustrating at times to see the patients coming in not taking their medications and not understanding that we are there to help them. A lot of the people we see are homeless or not very well off, but that’s when we want them to come see us. We’re not just here to ask patients how they’re feeling on a good day. We truly want to help,” Graham says.

While a “cocktail therapy” of medications is known to help HIV/AIDS patients significantly, Graham is also an advocate for awareness regarding the additional support available to HIV/AIDS patients. “We want to find these people the resources they need to get healthy, whatever those may be,” she says. Sometimes that meant locating a shelter; other times she had to explain medication management.

Before the internship, Graham had an interest in raising awareness about support for HIV/AIDS patients and strategies for prevention. In fact, it’s the subject of her senior thesis. She will investigate the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among areas where prostitution is legal versus illegal in developed and developing areas, as well as the psychological consequences behind both.

Graham believes education and prevention are key parts of global health, and with today’s social media, they are not hard to achieve, provided the right tools are used — a concept she introduced at GHI. “Our office had no social media whatsoever,” she says. By starting a Facebook page, Twitter account, and a system to Skype with patients in prison through a program called “telemedicine,” or with patients abroad through Google+ hangouts, Graham launched a large portion GHI’s leap into the 21st century. She even stepped out of her technological comfort zone when she designed a new website for the GHI.

After her summer experience, Graham knows she wants to continue working in public health, spreading education and prevention of public health issues. She is considering a master’s degree in public health, after gaining more experience in the healthcare field. “Seeing people getting the healthcare and support they need is beyond rewarding,” she says.