Mia Kanak, MPH '11

Shanghai and Shandong, China

I spent two months over the summer with the Yale Global Health Leadership Institute in China researching the impact of community health centers on access to health care in rural areas and on diabetes education in urban areas. In Shandong, I served as one of 16 field researchers conducting household surveys on rural access to medical care, where I witnessed the value of government investment in community health infrastructure. Each of the 17 villages I worked in had its own clinic. Residents of mud houses with no running water surprisingly receive more routine primary care than some residents of urban U.S. communities. This experience inspired me to work with a non-governmental organization to raise funds to build a rural health clinic in BaoDong Village of Guangzhou, one of China’s poorest provinces. I also learned through my research on community health centers that investment in infrastructure is not enough. Under the guidance of Dr. Liebin Zhao at the Jiaotong University School of Medicine, I designed a study comparing diabetes education programs at community health centers in Shanghai. The results indicated that varying levels of commitment and skill among health providers led to vastly different levels of comprehensiveness among diabetes education programs. This result reinforced my notion that physician education must incorporate both clinical and management skills in order to improve patient care. My research experiences in China have motivated me even more to engage in health care delivery to underserved populations with an interdisciplinary public health and medical perspective.