Derek Ban
Derek Ban
View image caption

Name: Derek Ban

Year of Study: Senior

Major: Neuroscience

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.  

I am a current 4th-year neuroscience major and global health minor! I am Cambodian-American, born and raised here in the PNW with my older brother. I am constantly inspired by the perseverance from my father who came here as a refugee and with my mother who also immigrated here afterward. As the first in my family to attend university, it was an incredibly intimidating experience to take initiative in my academics and in the pursuit of my goals. The push from curiosity and a growth mindset has allowed me to take an active role in research in neuropharmacology at the Zweifel Lab at UW. I am currently working as a Medical Assistant at a neurology clinic to gain further experience in healthcare settings as I prepare to graduate.  

Why did you choose to pursue global health courses/a minor in Global Health?  

Understanding my identity, coming from a refugee family, I wanted to better understand the intersectionality and nuances that come with public health both here in the US and globally. Traveling back home to Cambodia has facilitated my understanding surrounding some of the discrepancies that exist between Global North and South countries in terms of health care. I also wanted to understand how broad and universal these differences are. I had many questions regarding the issues that plague many health systems around the world, and the breadth of knowledge and experience from the faculty at UW really interested me, with their firsthand perspectives.  

How does the minor complement your core major studies?  

I study neuroscience and when learning about mental health and illness we learn about treatments and therapies that are used to cure or ease symptoms. It has been powerful to see discrepancies in how care is able to be given depending on the region you live in. It has also been very enlightening to see how the intersectionality of environmental factors contributes to mental illness and seeing how much education about these illnesses can do so much good for a health system and its community. It also helped me contextualize the significance that many place on certain illnesses with the prevalence of diseases being a major difference between Global North and South countries. This has helped me draw parallels between how my family and community which has been surrounded by trauma and conflict during the refugee crisis deal with mental health issues.  

What has been most valuable about your Global Health coursework/learning thus far?  

Speaking with professors who have spent a lot of time learning and listening not only here in the states but internationally. I greatly value self-reflection and believe acknowledgment of our flaws and biases as well as privilege is the first step to begin contributing positively to global health. I’ve learned a lot about the positive work that is being done around the world to utilize our privilege. At the same time, I learned when we as a field have made big mistakes. I find the highlighting of failures that have occurred under the name of Global Health in our coursework has been most impactful to understand the direction and attitude of this field of study. That we are striving to improve constantly and that means growing and learning from shortcomings, both policy-related and self-reflection regarding our intentions.  

What are your professional goals?  

I am a pre-medical student, so ultimately after I graduate, I plan on taking 2 gap years to prepare to apply to medical school. I have no incredibly large interest in pursuing a specific specialty but want to be able to interact on a personal level with patients as much as possible to break the gap that exists between providers and patients. I hope to contribute to the growing diversity that is needed in healthcare. Ultimately, I want to do work abroad and volunteer with a program like Doctors Without Borders, hopefully going back to Cambodia to offer services to the many underserved communities there that my family are originally from.  

Please share your recommendation for prospective and/or current undergraduate students on ways in which they may maximize their experience in Global Health.

Reach out and ask questions both inside and outside of class. Coursework in Global Health courses can be incredibly broad and incredibly specific at the same time. To really utilize the wealth of knowledge that exists within this department and the faculty you have. Do not be afraid to ask the questions that surround issues that mean a lot to you. The field is so interconnected that regardless of who you talk to, either they will have a very interesting perspective on the concept or will know someone who does and can point you towards them. Allow your curiosity to come out as I believe the main strength of the coursework is the rigor that comes from constantly questioning why and how things are done and if that’s the best we really can do. Use issues that are important to you, facilitate your learning, and the direction of your questions regarding their global impact.