The Continued Stories of Rose Service Learning Alumni: Esias Bedingar

Esias Bedingar presenting at the Africa CDC Youth Pre-Conference

Pictured above: Esias Bedingar speaking at the Africa CDC Youth Pre-Conference

Esias Bedingar, PhD candidate (GHP) was awarded a Rose Service Learning Fellowship to support his work to understand more about perceptions and beliefs of Chadian youth (aged 15-24) on sexuality as it relates to HIV and AIDS transmission and prevention. Esias recently presented the results of the project as a TedX speaker at the Africa CDC Youth Pre-Conference – the largest convergence of young health professionals in Africa on the margins of the International Conference on Public Health in Africa (CPHIA) in Lusaka, Zambia.  

This fellowship was a life changing experience for me. Due to the fact that I am a native of Chad and that my study took place in my home country, I felt pretty comfortable about going home. However, everything changed when I went to Chad. Sometimes as a child, I would feel out of place because I would not feel as if I belonged in my own community. This was because of my family upbringing. Therefore, I never had the opportunity to truly connect with people that did not have the same life experiences as me. This research project allowed me to immerse myself in my own culture at two different levels. First, working with the Blue Cross Chad staff, all aged 30+ has allowed me to engage with older Chadians. Additionally, speaking to high school students pushed me to think how to best communicate with them while respecting social norms and culture. I would admit that coming from an affluent Chadian family, I never had to think about these aspects, but now as a public health practitioner, I had to be careful and mindful of the power of my words.  

Although we strive to make a positive impact, we need to consider the importance of culture in the work we do. This experience has taught me that we are first and foremost servants, servants to the people and communities we are trying to help, no matter if you are an epidemiologist, biostatistician, or global health expert. I am grateful for the guidance and wisdom imparted to me by exceptional mentors like Professor Marcia Castro and Dr. Succès Masra, who have instilled in me the value of servant leadership in all my endeavors. Empowered with the skills we learned here at the school, we must be humble to listen to and learn from those who are suffering without judging, instead of assuming we already have the knowledge. Therefore, the best of our work will only be achieved if we get out there on the field and listen to the people. 

This fellowship has led to collaborations with national partners in Chad, exploring how adolescents access information, make decisions, and use services. It also emphasizes understanding the roles of healthcare workers and policymakers in creating a supportive environment for youth healthcare. This work aims to offer insights for designing and implementing youth-centric interventions in challenging sociocultural contexts, contributing significantly to the goal of ending the AIDS epidemic among adolescents. 

Esias recently wrote to update us on his whereabouts: He has been appointed to be a Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Chad. He reports, I will be working not only in health, but in all human capital/development sectors, including education, nutrition, water and environment, youths, jobs, and skills. It is such an amazing opportunity to put into practice my amazing skills gained at the school and broader Harvard for the development of my country.   

Congratulations Esias! 

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