Twenty-six year-old Racheal Kantor grew up in Leonia, New Jersey. She studied liberal arts at Haverford College, Pennsylvania where she majored in Biology, with a concentration in Peace, Justice and Human Rights.
Characteristic of so many MSIH students, along the way, Rachael broke from tradition. “I was an athlete at college,” she explains, “and didn’t study abroad. It was only in my last summer at that I got an opportunity to travel.”
That travel changed Rachael’s life forever.
“The previous summer I’d worked at Columbia University and met a researcher who suggested I apply to volunteer with Floating Doctors* in Bocas del Toro, Panama. I jumped at the idea and my application to become an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) was accepted.”
Rachael traveled to Panama the next summer and set about “reworking the pharmacy.” The experience solidified what she wanted to do and why. It was now clear she wanted to be a doctor and to help underprivileged populations. Two weeks after she graduated, Rachael went back to Panama to become Floating Doctors’ Pharmacy and Clinical Supplies Manager. There, she spent a year, working various mobile clinics spread across 23 communities in the Ngöbe-Buglé Comarca.
“It was during this time that I heard about MSIH,” she explains. “A family friend from Columbia University knew about the program and suggested I apply. Based on my experience and how I saw my future, it seemed the perfect fit.”
Adapting to the Transition
Rachael believes that her experience in Panama prepared her well for the transition to studying in Israel. “I’d been exposed to medical students from all over the world, so I’d learned to accept their ways – making it easier to adapt to the Israeli culture. I think the Israeli/European mold fits me better.”
Like most MSIH students, during her time in Israel, Rachael has exploited her close proximity to Europe. She’s already had short vacations in Budapest, Munich and Spain. “Munich was a nightmare in the end,” she adds. “There was a problem with the date on my ticket and I spent 48 hours wandering the airport before I found a flight out!”
The experience leaves her unflustered; “Global health is working in an uncertain environment where you always expect the unexpected and adapt to circumstances. The Munich airport experience was just another little bump along the way.”
Living Global Health
“At MSIH students have tons of access to Global Health – if they take the opportunity,” she explains. “Sometimes the system is hard to negotiate and the language can be a big problem, but that’s exactly what we’re being trained for. It’s better I learn to deal with communications and cultural barriers now, than find myself paralyzed in a foreign country later as part of an emergency team.”
* Floating Doctors, a 501(c)3 organization, was established by Californian, Dr. Ben LaBrot and his sister, Sky. Dr. LaBrot is himself an FMG (Foreign Medical Graduate), having obtained his MD degree at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.