Arielle Thomas has taken a break from her medical studies at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill to earn her MPH from the Yale School of Public Health’s Advanced Professional Program. Training in surgery, Arielle is also keenly interested in global access to surgery and is pursing the Global Health track at Yale.
It’s hard to align surgery with public health,” says Arielle, who is passionate about working in the humanitarian sector and creating long term relationships in clinical care in lower-income countries. Through her studies in public health she has expanded her ideas about what surgeons can do to service communities globally. A first-generation American, Arielle feels comfortable living abroad and adapting to other cultures and has used her time at Yale to fill in gaps in her education and move outside of her clinical and biological comfort zone. To that end, she took an accounting class at the School of Management and learned not only about the various tools of our modern economy, but why downgrading credit scores in South Africa could be a bad thing — an important insight as she tries to overcome barriers to surgical accessibility.
Arielle has also thrown herself into public health practice at Yale. With the Yale Center for Asylum Medicine, she was able to observe forensic medical evaluations of refugees seeking asylum in the United States as well as work with the program director to evaluate the program. Usually arranged by attorneys, these evaluations increase the rate of being given asylum from 25 percent to 80 percent. The results of that program evaluation have been presented locally and will soon be shared at a conference of the North American Refugee Council.
Last semester, Arielle also took a class that allowed her to develop a program evaluation protocol for an OB/GYN fellowship exchange program between Oregon Health Sciences University and Mekelle University in Ethiopia. This semester she is on the other side of the coin, doing an evaluation of an adolescent peer education and leadership program for Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. The two experiences forced me to relate to people quite differently, said Arielle. “I had to ask for help from people with different professional skills than mine, learn to interview people and probe for answers without feeling like I was prying, and figure out how to incorporate staff input into the evaluation process.”
Arielle has also discovered advocacy at Yale. A student in the Global Health Justice Partnership, she has collaborated on a drug pricing project. The group has worked toward gaining transparency in pricing — which has been fought hard by the pharmaceutical industry— and preventing predatory pricing. Their research has been used in attempts to pass legislation in Maryland and Connecticut. Connecticut’s bills were not successful this year, but Maryland was able to pass a price gouging bill. “I never actually tried to get a policy change before,” says Arielle. “It’s hard to convert research into one sentence sound bites for legislators!”