For the past few years, the theme of compassion in global health has captured my attention like a Zen koan. Why is compassion, which seems to be a core value for so many in the field, rarely mentioned in global health discourse? What is the relationship between compassion and other global health values, such as justice, solidarity, and health equity? What nourishes and motivates global health workers to do their best work, and what sustains them through the dry periods? How do we who seek to improve the health of entire populations, in the words of Bill Foege, “see the faces” of the individuals who make up those populations?
I have pondered these questions and have been privileged to speak about them with hundreds of global health professionals and students from around the world. Their reflections have inspired me and their insights have deepened my understanding. I share my exploration of this koan in several recent publications, which now appear at The Center for Compassion & Global Health. These writings consider global health from the perspectives of a ‘mass uprising of compassion’ and as an example of the ‘globalization of compassion.’ They explore spiritual themes and challenges in global health as well as challenges of globalization itself. And, in a forthcoming book edited by Dr. Harley Rotbart, Miracles We Have Seen, I tell the story of two encounters that changed the course of my professional life.
I invite you to peruse these articles and book chapters and to share your reflections as we continue the conversation together. – David