Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Center for Global Health

Interview with MSGH Student Dr. Heidi Sampang

The Master of Science in Global Health attracts a diverse student population. Dr. Heidi Sampang is a pediatrician with extensive global medical service experience. This June, Dr. Sampang will graduate with the first MSGH class.

Q: What were you doing before MSGH and why did you enroll in the program? 

Dr. Heidi Sampang: I was born and raised in the Philippines. After finishing medical school in the Philippines, I went the US and finished my pediatric residency in NY. Since 2002 to 2015, I worked in a small private clinic in Springfield, VA. But growing up in the Philippines, I saw how people would line up for days to see a doctor and the how this lack of access to health care have a negative impact on the individual and the family. So for the past 15 years, I have been involved in several international medical missions to help in my own little way those people in the remote areas. 

Q: Would you share your thoughts on the online/distance learning format?

HS: I really want to learn more about public health and global health but I do not have the time to attend a structured curriculum offered in a school setting because of my busy schedule (work and family). But the online learning format is intriguing because it seems like online learning offers more flexibility in terms of study hours. And I felt online learning is less intimidating because we have the virtual veil covering us up. 

My apprehension with online learning (which proved to be completely untrue) is that I won’t have the ability to interact with my professor and classmates which can affect the learning process. 

Q: What are the biggest challenges you encountered during the MSGH program or in creating your Practicum project?

HS: My biggest challenge/fear when I started this program was that I won’t be able to keep up with the other students. I have been out of school for 16 years so I have to learn everything so I relied on my personal field experiences to help me contribute to the discussion.

Q: Can you summarize the aims of your Practicum Project for the interprofessional audience?

HS: My practicum is to establish a community health worker program in rural Mozambique to help address the health care worker shortage in Mozambique especially in the remote area of Nwadjahane.  Nwadjahane does not have health care providers and the nearest health facility is seven kilometers away and their current health system is not able to completely address the health care needs of the community.  Together with our local partner, the Sunshine Nut Foundation, we will establish a sustainable CHW program that will support the maternal and child health by focusing on hygiene, nutrition, and health education. The newly trained CHWs will provide basic health care services at the household level, a need that was not provided prior to this program. 

Q: How did MSGH influence your career plans?

HS: The MSGH program has been really good in providing me with the appropriate knowledge and skill set that I need to be able to work effectively in the area of global health. With this new mindset, I am now able to work effectively and to implement better decisions in the field. I am also more confident when I talk with policy makers, government officials, and other field personnel because I am more aware of the global health situation because of the course. And once I finish the program, I’m thinking of switching careers and work closely with NGOs and policy makers. I think this career switch will enable me to help people at a greater scale. 

Q: Do you have any recommendations for future MSGH students?

HS: My recommendation for future MSGH students is to be flexible. Things do no always go as plan and there will always be set back especially when you are working in the remote areas. Being flexible gives you the opportunity to think of creative ways to approach a problem without compromising your own principles. 

Watch the NBC Dateline episode about Dr. Samapang’s cholera response work in Haiti