Zoe Siegel recognized for social justice endeavors

April 28, 2017

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Early in her teen years, Zoe Martina Siegel knew that all was not right with the world. Her consciousness rose and she began to speak out. In fact, her Norfolk Academy senior speech was about reproductive rights and how politicized they are.

It’s not so surprising, then, that this Tidewater native, who will graduate this month with a bachelor of science degree in Applied Psychology and Global Public Health from New York University, is the recipient of the Social Justice Award from the NYU Steinhardt Department of Applied Psychology. The award is presented to a student for her contribution to improving the life conditions of vulnerable individuals or communities. Siegel was nominated for the award by the faculty.

“I knew since I was in ninth grade that I was not happy with the status quo and it was possible to make a difference,” says Siegel. “I saw it in the work my parents did everyday and knew I needed to follow their lead.”

Siegel is the daughter of Lisa Bertini and Dr. Jack Siegel.

Passionate about helping others, Siegel is apt at identifing places where she can contribute her efforts, packing her bags and traveling to pitch in. Siegel has worked in remote locales in underdeveloped nations, as well as in communities of need in bustling U.S. cities.

“I went to Tanzania in June 2014 and was able to be part of an awareness campaign around female genital mutilation, and this made me want to make a difference in the health world.

“My major has allowed and taught me to question the status quo and do what I can to change what makes me furious,” she says.

In 2015, Siegel worked in Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital’s Global Health office on several projects. “My major project was the creation of a new Global Health Service Award Program,” she says. This program was created to encourage innovation, dedication, and commitment in the field of global health, to recognize individuals within the Mass General community who inspire, advance, and improve healthcare for underserved populations, and to emphasize the benefits of global collaboration to improving healthcare at home and abroad.

“I created the award descriptions, conducted dissemination, and campaigned and outlined the award selection process,” notes Siegel. “This award program was inaugurated this past spring and was the highlight of MGH Annual Global Health Expo at the hospital.” In addition, Siegel wrote the lead-in for a story on the website that described the experiences of doctors who volunteered for disaster relief mission in Nepal after the earthquake.

In 2016, Siegel traveled to Uganda to work at the Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) through MGH. Under the direction of Dr. Ryan Carroll, she worked with the head pharmacist at the Mbarara Regional and Referral Hospital to develop a proposal to pilot a new pharmaceutical drug tracking system at the hospital. This scanning system, adapted from a Kenyan based IT company can increase the reliability of data by tracking drugs from delivery, to storage, to distribution. This prevents drug shortages and increases medical care at this hospital.

Back in New York, with Columbia’s Global Mental Health Program, Siegel is co-chair and co-founder of the Student Advisory Board. “We have made it our focus to deliver mental health information to the general public through short videos called Minutes on Mental Health,” she says.

“These videos develop an understanding of the significance of the topic, while offering suggestions on combating stigma.

At Columbia’s Global Mental Health Program, Siegel has also produced bi-monthly reports for WHO Global Clinical Practice Network, “which aims to illustrate mental health stigma within vulnerable communities across the world,” she says. Ultimately, Siegel says she hopes to lead a public health campaign surrounding women’s rights or climate change.

But first, there’s a graduation and an award to celebrate…and some travel just for fun.

- Terri Denison

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