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Give Some, Get More: Becoming a Global Health Consultant with APHL

Some of the APHL Global Health Consultant team in Zakopane, Poland, where they were training a Ukrainian cohort.

By Donna Campisano, specialist, Communications, APHL

Want to help save lives around the world?

APHL occasionally has the opportunity for laboratory professionals in the US to mentor, train and collaborate with other laboratory scientists around the world. Some consultant work is done remotely while other opportunities will take consultants out of the country (travel length usually ranges from one-to-two weeks and expenses are paid for by APHL).

Applying for the consultancy program does not guarantee placement. Much depends on where and what the needs are—everything from mentoring to quality systems development to strategic and operational planning.

It’s not necessary to be at a senior level to apply to be a Global Health consultant. “We may need support from a technical expert who may not be senior level,” said Jocelyn Isadore, the professional development manager within APHL’s Global Health team. “Or we may need an instructor or mentor for a leadership program [and in that case] we would be looking for more senior staff with extensive leadership and management experience.”

David Mills, PhD, retired director of the Scientific Laboratory Division of the New Mexico Department of Health, has traveled to roughly 30 countries on behalf of APHL. Some of the jobs he’s performed include management training and helping ministries of health design and build public health laboratories. “Basically, I take the skills I learned as a lab director and put them to use in support of these projects.”

When asked why he thinks this work is important, Mills paraphrased the famous architect, engineer and futurist Buckminster Fuller stating, “We’re all in this boat together, and we can’t let one side of the boat sink and think we won’t get our own feet wet. People in the countries I’ve traveled to for APHL are trying to do the same things we’re doing here, but they don’t have the same resources. Sharing with my colleagues in other countries has taught me a lot about flexibility, attitude and not focusing on limitations. Seeing people who are dealing with adversity keep their eye on the ball is really rewarding—and fills me with optimism.”

Another former laboratory director, Burt Wilcke, echoed those thoughts. Wilcke, who served as the Vermont Department of Health Laboratory director for 22 years and then as department chair and faculty member at the University of Vermont, has helped develop lab testing capabilities in Nigeria and worked with labs that receive funding from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) project. APHL has a cooperative agreement with PEPFAR and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to assist PEPFAR-funded countries with a host of laboratory needs.

“I find this work so gratifying and inspirational,” Wilcke said. “When I come back from a trip, I inevitably hear something like, ‘The people must be so grateful to you for sharing your knowledge.’ But I always say, I learn as much or more from the people I’m working with than they from me. I’ve learned about humility, collaboration and how to do more with less. So, yes, it’s institutionally rewarding, but it’s personally rewarding as well.”

To learn more about the program, contact global.health@aphl.org.

Header photo caption: Some of the APHL Global Health Consultant team in Zakopane, Poland, where they were training a Ukrainian cohort.

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