Consider the context: an interview with Rawya Khodor

August 31, 2017
Rawya Khodor
Rawya Khodor is a Research Consultant at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs in Beirut, Lebanon.

What is your current position?
I am currently a research consultant on the “Refugee Research and Policy in the Arab World” program at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, Beirut, Lebanon.

My work experience includes working with Lebanese ministries (mainly the Ministry of Social Affairs, and the Ministry of Public Health), UN agencies (mainly the United Nations Development Programme, and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency), and international non-governmental organizations on several social and health research and outreach projects. I have also done research related to health policy and systems research.

I engage in work that supports Lebanese host communities that were receiving refugees. I’ve also done social projects where we were trying to reduce the tension between the Lebanese and the Syrian refugees at the level of municipalities. We were building their capacities so that they could implement projects with Syrians to increase local production. Other parts of the projects included strengthening capacities in terms of infrastructure and support for the needs of the municipalities. It was a project that happened at the national level in Lebanon.

Can you describe your career path up until this point?
I am a very passionate person. I did not wait until I finished my undergrad or my master’s degree to start working. I was really involved in a lot of projects from the start.

I was involved in several projects happening at the community level. I started first collecting data, supervising and helping community workers on the ground, and giving nutritional counseling. This continued during my masters to develop my research skills through larger-scale projects. My prior work experience, combining both outreach and research skills, helped me get the position I have now. I became involved with the groups I am currently working with because I kept in contact with instructors and people I met during my master’s program.

What is your biggest career goal?
There is so much to accomplish in Lebanon. Lebanon is a developing country and faces many big challenges in terms of healthcare. I hope I am able to contribute to the design and tailoring of healthcare interventions. I see myself being part of designing, planning, and implementing health interventions at the wider scale. In Lebanon, there is not just one community. There are many different people such as Syrian refugees, Palestinian refugees, and people who come from different origins and are displaced all throughout Lebanon. This makes it very hard to implement interventions. You need to take into account the contextual factors and the socioeconomic background of every community

My areas of interest is related to non-communicable diseases, like diabetes and hypertension, which are unfortunately a large burden in Lebanon. I am also interested in making positive advances in reproductive healthcare and mental healthcare. There are huge gaps in services there. So my journey is very long.

What is the biggest challenge that you face?
One of the biggest and constant challenges for anyone working on health projects and interventions in Lebanon is trying to engage all types of stakeholders (policy-makers, mayors, researchers, etc.) in the design and implementation of these projects/interventions. Their agendas are so different.

What impact do you think GHDI will have on your career?
This course has been very eye-opening and has exceeded my expectations. I honestly didn’t believe I would be so fascinated by the information in the classes. Every class leads to another and complements each other in a way that is very impactful. I have my master’s in public health and health management and policy, but this course opened my eyes to global health. Before I knew of global health as a term, but this class has shown me how we collaborate our efforts as a whole. I learned several things that I can use in my involvement with my health projects. I always thought because it wasn’t directly in my work, I didn’t have to know a lot about it. I also learned a lot about other models of delivering healthcare. When you come from a certain background or a certain region you, are only exposed to one model but this course exposes you to everything and I am very grateful.

What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my work in research. Anyone can do research, but you must be able to translate the research for the people around you so that it impacts practice. For example, in the health management class I was able to present my research on the refugees. All of the information I presented came from projects I worked on, and I was able to translate that to my colleagues. I received many questions, and I was so proud that my information was being translated.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in health care in your country?
I would tell them to be aware of the challenges, consider the context, and explore every detail of any intervention you are working on. You cannot judge a book by its cover. This is the most important thing.