Jessie Stone was born and raised in New York.
She majored in philosophy and political science at the University of California. During her last year of college, an injury with surgery experience convinced her to become a doctor. After graduation, she attended a Medical program at the University of Pennsylvania followed by medical school at New York Medical College. During med-school, she worked in a Kenyan hospital and was overwhelmed by the tremendous need for all types of medical care. It forever changed her desire to practice medicine for she realized she did not want to work in the developed world rather in a place of greater need.
While on a kayaking trip to the Zambezi and Nile rivers in 2003, two of her expedition mates got malaria and she had to treat them. It opened her eyes to the enormous burden of malaria in Uganda. After a field research, she discovered that education-based preventative interventions that supported behavioural change were not only welcome but also effective in helping people live healthier malaria free lives. This catalyzed her medical school dream and resulted in the founding of Soft Power Health. Today, this NGO operates a rural health care clinic, a mother and child wellness centre, and two health education outreach programs, one for malaria and one for family planning in Uganda. These low cost, sustainable interventions save lives and teach people how to live healthier lives. It is with great pleasure that she replied to our 2 questions.
What Brings You Happiness?
There are many different things that bring me happiness and joy, watching a beautiful Ugandan sunset, hearing the call of a fish eagle, seeing nature at work and at play on the Nile, surfing a big wave in my kayak, but what brings me the greatest sense of lasting happiness is to be able to help people who are much less fortunate than I.
There is no question that when I am able to help provide education, diagnosis, or treatment for someone who is in need, it brings an amazing sense of perspective and groundedness to my life. All the unimportant things melt away and I feel a sense of accomplishment and peace.
I become very grateful for the greatest gift of all – good health. My work with Soft Power Health allows me to help people to help themselves, and it allows me to help people who would never otherwise have the opportunity to get health education and good health care. I am very grateful for this opportunity and very happy to be able to do this work. This makes me happy!
What Would You Change (If You Could) To Make Our World A Better Place?
Through my work on the ground here in Uganda for the last 7 years, I have discovered that there is an enormous gap between policy that is made in order to help people and its actual effectiveness on the ground. If I could, I would like to create regular, open communication forums between people who work on the ground doing healthcare and humanitarian work and the policy makers and donors. Historically, there has been ineffectual policy and wasted money that could have been better utilized with local knowledge, and there has been a lot of damage done as a result of bad policy. I would like to see policy makers and donors invest in long term plans and strategies that have sustainable outcomes that are formulated with the direct involvement of local knowledge. This will lead to lasting beneficial change for all.
Ultimately, it is a matter of education, not only of the local recipients who need help but also of the policy makers and donors, many of whom have never spent time in the field to see how things really work and to appreciate subtle details like culture and resources.