A Passion For Health Equity Leads Orchard Grad to Med School at Brown University

If the philosophy of Progressive education is to make the world a better place, graduates like Odette Zero '09 are proof of this pedagogy. Odette recently completed her one-year fellowship at Global Health Corps with Children’s Health Fund (CHF), a nonprofit based in New York on a mission to serve the most disadvantaged children in the United States. Fun fact: the nonprofit was co-founded by musician, Paul Simon. 

Before she accepted the role of Program Implementation Fellow at CHF, Odette accomplished quite a bit:
  • Graduated from Northwestern University with degrees in Human Biology Anthropology with Honors, Minor in Global Health
  • Co-founded Community Health Corps, a student-run organization that improves access to health resources through partnerships with public libraries around the Chicago area, awarded $3,000 grant from the Resolution Project at the 2016 Clinton Global Initiatives Conference
  • Volunteered at Open Windows Foundation for many years in rural Guatemala, awarded $6,000 grant from the Buffet Institute for Global Studies and Northwestern Career Development
  • At Jagran Jan Vikas Samiti in India, she created a crowd-funding campaign to build a local health center and created a book highlighting healers’ life stories 
Today, Odette is attending medical school at Brown University working towards an M.D./ M.Sc. in Primary Care-Population Medicine. She plans to go into primary care specialty and work with minority and uninsured patients at a community health center.
Below is our Q&A with Odette Zero where we discuss her passion for health equity originated, how Orchard impacted her higher education/professional career, and more.
How have you been?
I've been doing well! I have moved quite a bit in the last couple of years. I completed my undergrad at Northwestern University, majoring in Anthropology and minoring in Global Health. During my time there, I created a health information desk program at public libraries and worked in Guatemala and India. 
Shortly afterward, I accepted a fellowship through the Global Health Corps, a non-profit leadership development organization that aims to achieve health equity in the US and abroad, and began working at the Children's Health Fund (CHF). At CHF, I worked with their clinical partner in the South Bronx to coordinate health programs such as Pregnancy and Well-Baby group care and a social determinants of health program for pregnant women and new mothers. 
Where did your passion for health equity and supporting disadvantaged children originate?
My first meaningful experience with health equity was through participating in pediatric dental service trips organized by my mother in her home country of Guatemala. After several years of providing free dental care to the same group of children, I began to see real change in their oral and general health. Without pain in their teeth, they were happier and doing better in school. This experience taught me the importance of preventative and periodic healthcare and helped me realize that I wanted to dedicate my life to improving people’s overall health. However, even in middle school I was drawn to service-oriented work. Orchard provided me with a strong moral foundation that I have built on through my later experiences. Through all the annual traditions and opportunities for hands-on learning, Orchard created both community and a shared experience.  
What’s the overall goal for you?   
I am currently in medical school pursuing a MD/M.Sc. in Primary Care-Population Medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University. I plan to go into a primary care specialty and work with minority and uninsured patients at a community health center. This has been my dream career since I fell in love with medicine and patient care. I have seen the enormous impact of primary care at the individual and community level and hope to have such a meaningful career working with patients and families to build a healthier and happier community.
Do you feel like Orchard prepared you for the professional/higher education world?
While it seems like so long ago, Orchard provided me with a curiosity for learning that I still feel to this day. At Orchard, I learned how to explore and question the world around me, and this has made me a better professional and student. 
What comes to mind when you think back on your time at Orchard?
I fondly remember collecting fresh maple syrup from the trees outside the building and making pancakes together on a huge stove. I also remember many of the holiday and spring songs that we sang at the annual concerts. Those were a lot of fun! 

Progressive Education Tenet: Diversity and Education for a Global Society
  • Experience, learn, and practice inclusion, equity, and social justice