Susanna Park joins me on this episode of Leading with Health to discuss global health and the pitfalls of “expertise” in academia and healthcare. Susanna is a fourth-year PhD candidate in Global Health at Oregon State University. She is a researcher and educator who enjoys traveling, trying new foods, and hiking. You can find her at

Highlights include:

3:57 – SP: “The history of how global health came about wasn’t because people were concerned about equity or people were concerned about health for all. It really became a thing because of colonialism.”

13:50 – SP: ” I had a great professor who talked about, if you have a map and you’re ready to draw arrows to where all the wealth goes, generally, they all point towards the global North. They’re all concentrated in specific areas. And he’s like, that’s not an accident.”

17:34 – SP: “If I have a pot of money that I could give out to any kind of community and I’m coming from a place where I’m just like, I want to save the world, that’s really going to paint a different picture than if I have this pot of money and I’m realizing, Oh, I have these kinds of capacities, but I also don’t have this kind of knowledge. And I see a community that already has this knowledge and they just need a little support in building that capacity.”

24:30 – SP: “(Instead of voluntourism,) you can really just go put that money towards traveling. And travel in a way that’s sustainable and that supports local efforts. And that money goes directly to them. And it goes into their economy.”

26:31 – SP: “Cultural competency at its core is a lifetime work. Like, you don’t get some kind of stamp of approval and say you’re culturally competent.”

29:00 – SP: “Part of my motivation was to say, okay, in my capacity as an upcoming scholar and a researcher, what can I do to give back to all this wealth of knowledge? And it was to do something that I could give back to a community about a specific issue, and work with them locally to try and address this issue of intimate partner violence.”

32:41 – SP: “The important thing for me is that I protect and honor the integrity of the stories that I will potentially be gathering. And these aren’t just stories, this isn’t just data. It’s real-life people’s experiences.”

35:03 – SP: “I don’t feel like I’m an expert by any means because the knowledge that I have right now, it’s from actual experts within the community. So without them, it wouldn’t be possible for me to do this work. I wouldn’t have this knowledge. And so for them to pass this knowledge onto me, it’s a privilege and in no way do I consider myself to be an expert in that way because the expertise lies elsewhere. And I think academia has a tendency … we love to own things. We love to be first author. We love to say we discovered things. We love to say we conquered stuff. And it’s like, no, that’s a very colonial mindset. And if I’m working with Native communities, that’s where I need to really decolonize my own mind and break that and say, no, I’m not an expert. I’m sharing knowledge. And that shared knowledge is coming from actual experts within the community itself.”

Leading with Health is hosted by Jennifer Michelle. Jennifer has a Master’s in Public Health and Epidemiology and is a certified EMT. As President of Michelle Marketing Strategies, Jennifer specializes in healthcare marketing. She is on a mission to help women find their voice so they can create a stronger, more responsive healthcare system.