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Spotlight: Q&A with Residents for Global Health & Service

For the first post in our new section, "Solar Warriors," we want to highlight an organization that is giving back by utilizing the skills and expertise of its members. Residents for Global Health & Service (RGS) is a newly established NGO formed in 2017 by a group of like-minded resident physicians dedicated to increasing awareness of public health issues both domestically and internationally. Having had the privilege to train in the medical field, they believe that supporting underserved regions is not only their social responsibility, but also aids them in their own pursuits by providing further motivation and a greater reason to remain focused during residency. This group of resident physicians now travels across the world providing free primary care and promoting preventative medicine in communities which lack access to these resources. They are currently raising money to bring Solights on their trips to Bangladesh, Nepal, and India in October.

We had the opportunity to chat with Danica Zold and hear her thoughts on the future of RGS and the evolving face of charity work. Ms. Zold is a founding board member of RGS. She completed her post-baccalaureate and doctorate education at Touro University-California in 2016, where she studied Global Health through a master's degree in Public Health. She later entered medical school and became a doctor of osteopathic medicine. She is currently a resident at Jefferson Health Northeast (previously Aria Health) in Philadelphia, PA.

Solight Design: How did you become involved with RGS?  Danica Zold: During my training, I was excited to join a residency program that allowed me the flexibility to continue pursuing my passion in public health. After all, my interest in public health inspired me to become a physician in the first place. I became a member of what was initially an interest group upon entering residency at Jefferson Health Northeast. I am now a founding board member of RGS.

SD: What are some issues you encounter underserved communities struggling with? Are there any issues which seem more universal across the different communities you've served? DZ: Universal issues in underserved communities all seem to stem from lack of access to primary education and resources. Almost everywhere we have visited, we encountered issues with clean water, poor hygiene and sanitation, and lack of basic utilities such as electricity. This is one reason why we have chosen to raise funds and bring along the SolarPuff this year! These chronic and basic issues all contribute to the prevalence of infectious diseases, childhood illness, malnutrition, and women's health. Most importantly, the role of illness prevention has no home without these basic human needs.

SD: What long-term goals do you have for RGS? How many people have you impacted thus far, and how do you hope to expand your reach?   

DZ: While we are still gathering data and deciding on how best to demonstrate our sustainable impact, in the past year, we have certainly reached the lives of thousands of people. We hope to raise awareness of global and public health issues amongst all healthcare professionals, particularly with physicians in training. As residents ourselves, we know how easy it is to lose sight of the big picture and why we went into medicine in the first place. Burn out is a real issue. For many of us, our passion for medicine and drive to give back to our communities-- to take care of our neighbors near and far-- gets lost in the very long days and hustle and bustle of residency. RGS hopes to inspire other residents to join us and reignite their fire. We can do this by providing a platform for residents across the country to apply their skills and training towards a public health or international health initiative of their choosing. We can help them get involved. Through our various projects, we hope to make a positive impact on the communities we visit, increase recognition of our efforts, and create a ripple effect among healthcare professionals to get more involved in public health.

SD: How do you ensure that your work has a long-term impact and continues to benefit future generations?   

DZ: Time is limited as a resident. Our work always includes the involvement of local officials, agencies and organizations. By working together, we can ensure our particular efforts are more long lasting then our transient presence. For this reason, many of our medical outreach projects involve education and assistance in providing necessary resources for further training. 

SD: One major debate in the field of NGO work is charity versus opportunity. What is your opinion on charity work versus empowering work?   

DZ: Charity work does not have the sustainability and effectiveness that empowering work does. Charitable work along the way seems inevitable with any international project, and in many cases a necessary stepping stone to reach the end goal. However, if you spread knowledge and empower those you are trying to help, your results are not only more impactful, but also long lasting. By empowering the community you are working with, these communities have a greater chance of success for change and improvement. RGS's goal is to empower.

SD: You are currently raising money to bring Solights on your trip to Bangladesh, Nepal, and India in October. Why did you choose Solight lanterns in particular?

DZ: We chose Solight lanterns because we believe in Solight's mission. Lack of light is a public health epidemic in itself; research has shown that providing light can decrease rape and assault by almost 20%. We wanted to help give light, a basic utility and resource that so many of us take for granted. Additionally, without light in many of these communities we visit, we would not be able pursue our mission within RGS. Solight's efforts and emphasis on donating lights to those in need, as well as their disaster response efforts, are inspiring. We chose Solight over other companies because our public health goals closely align. We wanted to show our recognition and appreciation for Solight's outreach efforts and public health contributions. Thank you!