Megan Kazlauskas, UVA Class of 2014
Megan Kazlauskas worked for the Center for Global Health as a Communications and Coordination Intern. She reflects on how global health impacted her career path.
Q: How does your work today connect with your experience at UVA including your major, your global health work, and other experiences?
My story is a bit of a short and winding road. While at UVa, I majored in history and minored in media studies, with the focus of each being in the 20th century and how history and communications are delicately intertwined. I was particularly interested in modern-day conflicts, epidemics, and social movements, how people responded to them with the means available at the time, and the impact of those human responses. As I was set to begin my 4th year, I came across a posting for a student position with the Center for Global Health, for developing content and messages for global health around Grounds. It sounded interesting to me, so I applied — and my connection to global health began there.
After graduating from UVa, I worked for a statewide nonprofit with the core mission of facilitating primary health care access to all Virginians. Community health shares so many similarities with global health, albeit on a smaller scale. As I began to build a career in the world of outreach and communications, I thrived off of the goodwill and progress I witnessed in the community health setting. I could drive down the highway for about two hours and witness the work of health centers before my very eyes — something that was obviously much harder to achieve when working in global health! But, while I loved the job I was doing in community health, I increasingly found myself doubting my own work. I knew that gathering, sharing, and amplifying the stories of patients across Virginia was crucial to advocacy, funding, and the allocation of resources, but as I sat behind a desk in an office building, far removed from patients and providers, I couldn’t help but feel stagnant and as if my work wasn’t doing enough to make a tangible difference. I wanted to work directly with patients in the clinical setting. After a good deal of self-reflection and research, I made the decision to apply to nursing school. Today, I’m currently a student in the Accelerated Bachelor’s of Nursing program at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Q: How has working in global health influenced you?
I’m a firm believer that my academic and work experiences helped carve the path I’m on today. My academic experiences in the liberal arts taught me how to be a critical thinker, and how to draw meaning from abstract concepts and large amounts of information. Work experiences in global and community health gave insight into the challenges and experiences that many individuals undergo — and how to intuitively react to these sensitive situations through communication, thought, and empathy. These skills have already served me well in nursing school, and I have no doubts that they will make me a better nurse.
Without taking up an entire page to explain how much global health impacted me and shaped my future, I’ll attempt to summarize. Working in global health at UVa truly reinforced the idea that the human experience is fluid — regardless of geographic location, culture, status, and gender. Health is at the core of what makes us human, and is a common experience that we all share. In that respect, it’s a humbling thought that forces one to take a step back and reconsider the “little things” that we take for granted each day.
Megan Kazlauskas worked with the Center for Global Health as a Communications and Coordination intern. We caught up with her to talk about her career path and how global health impacted her choices.
Q: What are your biggest challenges in your role and how do you respond to them?
In nursing, some of the most challenging situations I’ve encountered thus far are those in which preventative primary care and patient education would have resulted in better patient outcomes. The first part of that involves making healthcare affordable, especially in making it so that people are not prolonging visits with a primary care provider because they cannot afford it. This is a systemic issue, and I hope that in the next few years our country will see progress on this front. As for patient education, this includes involving the patient in making their own healthcare decisions and goals, and attempting to spark a change in lifestyle, knowledge, or overall well-being. It’s tough to be an advocate for a patient who does not want to change or improve their health circumstances, but certainly worth the challenge in order to see positive results.
Q: What do you see evolving in your future?
I’m currently on track to graduate from my nursing program with a BSN in December 2018. After that, I plan on working in an intensive care environment and hope to certify as a critical care nurse in the future. Beyond that — we’ll see!
Q: Is there something (ex/ piece of advice) that you think undergraduates pursuing a health career should be aware of during their undergraduate education? Anything that you learned through your education that you would pass along?
Explore all of your interests, even if you’re not 100% sure about them. Don’t hold yourself back because you think you may not succeed. At UVa, I pursued a history major because I loved history and I was good at it. It wasn’t a risk, and I knew I could get good grades. I surely don’t regret the path I chose; it made me a well-rounded individual, and taught me how to think critically and conceptually. But when I began to take prerequisite classes for nursing school, years after my time as an undergraduate at UVa, I found that I also loved anatomy and physiology. How had I not known this before? Immerse yourself in the subjects you know that you love, but also make room for the ones that dare you to take a step outside of your comfort zone. Grades are important, but discovering the things that will define your future career and make you excited to go to work everyday are what it’s all about.