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December 21, 2017

PHII welcomes Brendan Crosby to the Requirements Lab

PHII is pleased to welcome project manager Brendan Crosby to the Requirements Lab. Brendan comes to PHII from TEPHINET, another Task Force for Global Health program, where he supported grant management processes. As PHII’s newest project manager, Brendan will keep the Requirements Lab’s diverse portfolio of projects running smoothly—from an initiative helping to scale up health workforce capabilities in Zambia to one that supports the population of people with metabolic disorders right here in Georgia.

Brendan’s focus throughout his career has consistently revolved around global health and intercultural issues. As an undergraduate, Brendan studied abroad in China, and after college, he transitioned to teaching English as a second language in China. However, this stage of his career met an abrupt end when a severe SARS outbreak drove him from the country.

Drawing on some elementary-school Spanish lessons from years before to help bridge the language barrier, Brendan next pivoted to a Peace Corps volunteer position in Paraguay. In this role, Brendan worked in rural health and sanitation; his projects included health curricula for HIV/AIDS, parasite prevention and oral health. Brendan thrived in this work, and as he was leaving his Peace Corps swearing-out ceremony, he recalls saying to himself, “If I could ever get paid to do this kind of work, I would love to take it.”

In his next role, he did just that. Thanks to a connection he’d made in the Peace Corps, Brendan found a position at the Carter Center supporting global ministries of health in Guinea Worm eradication. While in this role, Brendan lived in South Sudan for three years supporting a team of specialized staff. As he observed the work global health professionals were able to do with advanced degrees, his thoughts began to turn to graduate school. Homesick for his home state of Minnesota and ready to earn his MPA, Brendan left South Sudan and enrolled in the University of Minnesota.

As a student, Brendan worked part-time at the Minnesota Department of Health, where he experienced his first exposure to public health informatics in the form of digital records and exchange for disease surveillance. Back in South Sudan, he’d relied entirely on paper-based reports, since electronic systems weren’t feasible at the time. Rather than the face-to-face, shoe-leather case investigation he’d grown used to in South Sudan, this digital, domestic case reporting was bigger-picture and more focused on population-level patterns. “It was more like trying to solve a riddle,” says Brendan.

Shortly after completing his MPA, Brendan was back in the global health saddle with an Ebola emergency response position in Liberia. His work involved doing surveillance for the five countries on the border of Sierra Leone and Guinea. This was Brendan’s first experience working on a designated public health emergency, and he quickly had to adjust to the breakneck speed with which priorities were constantly shifting. Brendan spent much of his time out in the field, usually for one- to two-week stints, before returning to his home base in Monrovia. Although Brendan was interacting with communities at risk for Ebola, he was never concerned about contracting the illness himself, due to the low case count. During his time working and living in Liberia, the country was declared Ebola-free.

“Health is foundational. If you’re healthy, you can work in your field. You can work in your shop. You can go to school.”

- Brendan Crosby

Throughout Brendan’s time living and working abroad in global health settings, he gained perspective that led him to see global health equity as a human rights issue. “It’s easy for me and people in the U.S. to take things for granted,” says Brendan. “Running water, having facilities with all the resources needed to run it…but health is foundational. If you’re healthy, you can work in your field. You can work in your shop. You can go to school.” Brendan sees health as the essential baseline for living a full, meaningful life, and global health as the tool by which whole populations can experience better quality of life. Quoting a personal hero of his, late Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone, Brendan adds, “We all do better, when we all do better.”

In his spare time, Brendan enjoys being outdoors, playing with his dog Frances, travelling and reading. Lately, he’s become more interested in seeking out hidden corners of the U.S., explaining, “You travel so much overseas, and then you come home and discover places right around the corner that are unique and noteworthy.”