What attracted you to the health metrics field?
As the daughter of Filipino immigrants to the United States, every few years we visited my parents’ homes in rural Philippines. Reconnecting with family from across the world was always joyful; but as I grew older, each visit also sharpened my awareness of inequity. My relatives – each hardworking and intelligent – were equally deserving of any opportunity to which I was afforded in the US. But gathered side-by-side with aunts, uncles, cousins, and siblings, my family mirrored how life choices and trajectories could be stunted by inadequate health care, economic adversity, and the chance of where one is born.
My personal observations of inequity are only a small part of the global reality, and this recognition has anchored my decisions about how I use my opportunities, time, and resources. Quantitative and practical by nature, I gravitated toward math and science but studied global health as an undergraduate to pursue a degree explicitly rooted in social justice.
To paraphrase Hans Rosling: I am interested in numbers because I am interested in people. Individual perspectives are narrow, and it is often difficult to piece together the magnitude of global progress and challenges from individual impressions, anecdotes, and articles. Comparable numbers, metrics, data, and a common scale elucidate the true state of global health and ground fair decision-making. To tell a person’s story with dignity means to tell it with accuracy, honesty, and without caricature; comprehensive and comparable health metrics, as undertaken by IHME, share the story of our global population with the truthfulness, scientific rigor, and dignity that the narrative deserves.
What work are you doing at IHME?
Within the Global Burden of Disease project, I am a member of the maternal and child health team, specifically modeling the disability that arises from nonfatal neonatal conditions. I am also estimating the exposure, relative risk, and attributable burden of disease due to neonates born small for gestational age, which is a new risk factor for GBD 2016. I am excited that my work at IHME is contributing to research that helps tell the story of what some call “the most dangerous day for mothers and newborns” – the first day of life.
How do you think your experience at IHME will contribute to your future work?
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim once said, “It seems so often as long as we are on the right side...as long as we declare our values about that social goal, we are excused for executing very poorly.” As a fellow at IHME, I am glad to be steeped in the tradition of striving for the highest excellence in execution. Additionally, the interdisciplinary nature of global health demands an equally interdisciplinary skill set from those who seek to work toward its progression. At whatever intersection of academia, practice, and policy I end up, I know the quantitative, analytic, and professional skills I am gaining here at IHME will be instrumental for a career in producing, evaluating, and translating data for action toward global health progress.