2018 - Working for those who are most vulnerable: an interview with Leah Ratner

August 29, 2018

Leah Ratner is a Pediatric Global Health Fellow at Boston Children's Hospital. 

What is your current position?

I am a first year Pediatric Global Health Fellow at Boston Children’s.  During the domestic portion of my fellowship I am focusing on Pediatric to Adult transition and I am working in the Young Adult Unit at BCH. My interest is in both domestic and global pediatric to adult transition, as this transition is often when chronically ill young adults are most vulnerable. For now, I am continuing my work in Ghana and will have other project-based work elsewhere, likely in Africa during my fellowship.

What brought you to the position you’re about to start?

It has been a long, but wonderful journey and an amalgamation of personal experiences both abroad and at home that led me to appreciate how pediatric to adult transitions can be a crucial turning point and often the height of vulnerability for chronically ill patients.  I wanted to find a way to bring together both my personal and professional experiences of transitions in resource poor settings to strengthen these experiences going forward to be a better advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves. Personally, I wanted to find a field that focused on long-term relationship building, which is where I felt I could be the best advocate. I feel so fortunate for my combined Med/Peds training and my background in sustainable international development to hopefully help me mesh these ideas together at the intersection of program and policy.

What is something that you wish to accomplish in your career or any goals that you have?

There’s not a lot being done in transition globally so I feel like I have a lot of advocating to do!  I am looking forward to fellowship as a way to improve my skills in these realms individually, but also synthesizing them so I can be an even stronger champion.

When you were applying to GHDI, what were you hoping to get out of this program?

I was fortunate enough to be an IHSJ  intern at PIH in 2010 – many years ago.  I remember being invited to hear Paul Farmer teach a case during GHDI, which was probably one of the first GHDI cohorts. I was in awe of the students, their diversity of backgrounds, opinions, and ideas, but didn’t appreciate the magnitude of the interdisciplinary collaboration that GHDI was built on at the time, nor it’s unique pedagogy.

As the first month of my fellowship, the unique culture within GHDI has served as a wonderful reminder of the importance of community within this work and finding a like-minded network dedicated to fighting injustice. I also wanted a deeper understanding of global health delivery in a practical sense for implementation.

What impact do you think GHDI will have on your career?

I think it will have a huge impact—I wish I could take it twice! I think the network will have the longest lasting impact. Every day in class I was humbled, inspired, and energized by my classmates.  The GHDI classroom continues into the field and I look forward to continuing to learn from my classmates, as it is already apparent we will continue cross paths as classmates, colleagues and friends around the globe.

Additionally, global health delivery as a concept was relatively new for me; I hope to continue to harness new ways to implement high value care through the various tools through my continued education and career.  

What are you most proud of in your career?

That is a tough question! Some of the patients I have been working with in Ghana I have been involved with since way before I was a doctor, so in many ways I feel like I’ve grown up with them – through my own transitions.  The long -term relationships I have built throughout this journey are probably what is most important to me and what keeps me going.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in healthcare?

Do what you love and stick with it. I remember being told, “you’re going to get jaded with medical school and just do global health,” but I don’t think that’s true.  Do what you love; no matter what that is because the work is hard. Surround yourself with people who are equally as passionate and dedicated to the work because together you will be stronger. But ultimately, I think it is all about perspective and reminding yourself why you are doing what you are doing – for those who are most vulnerable. Continue to have experiences that will keep you reminded of that.