Embracing complexity: Charlotte Grinberg '13

Thursday, Jun 16, 2016
by Alex Wheatley

When asked which values and skills learned in Princeton's Global Health Program (GHP) have translated into life post-graduation, Charlotte Grinberg ’13 (maiden name Charlotte Weisberg) cites an appreciation of complexity. It’s important “to advocate for the complexity of situations,” she says. “There are social, political, economic, [and] geographic factors that produce reality.” This lens, developed through her studies in anthropology and global health at Princeton, has shaped her experiences with health both at Princeton and beyond its gates.

Charlotte’s engagement with GHP centered on work done between her junior and senior year. With support from the Adel Mahmoud Global Health Scholars Program, she traveled to French Guiana to study birth culture.

She found that birth culture was intersected by a myriad of other political issues, including migration, war, and broader issues of identity and citizenship. Her thesis—“’The Children Are Our Wealth’: Maternity and National Identity in French Guiana”—explored prenatal and birth resources for undocumented women in French Guiana. It won the Dean Hank Dobin Thesis prize for most community impact.

Her thesis has since morphed into a multiyear dedication to issues surrounding migrant access to maternal care. To increase the political impact of her thesis, her work was translated into French and published as a book in France. She continues to work on this issue throughout medical school as a contributor to the European Union Border Care Project, an international comparative study on the politics of maternal care for undocumented immigrants in the EU.

After attending a GHP lecture by Dr. Jeffrey Brenner of the Camden Care Coalition, Charlotte was inspired to study patient outcomes in care management. During medical school, Charlotte has worked as a researcher for the Coalition, publishing an article on the importance of authentic healing relationships in caring for patients with frequent hospitalizations. All of these experiences, she says, have reinforced her “profuse love of anthropology, qualitative research, working with communities, and working really hard to help give people a voice.”

These passions shape her interest in medicine. In the fall of 2016 Charlotte enters her fourth year at Jefferson Medical College and will pursue a residency in primary care. She values individual patient experiences, stating that “when you understand the person, medicine is such a fun, meaningful, impactful thing to do.” Being able to situate individual experiences within the social, political, and health care systems that dictate them is a skill she learned at Princeton; GHP helped her to “see systems in a complicated, nuanced way. And people too.” In the long term, she hopes to work in primary care, balancing public policy and administrative work while fostering long-term relationships with patients.

Charlotte encourages students to have the confidence to pursue their passions while at Princeton, and to leverage the incredibly supportive GHP community. She advises them: “you’re your own critical thinker and leader here… take advantage of the resources” provided by GHP and Princeton, and “commit infinite amounts of time to researching topics you’re passionate about.” The conversations, classes, and people form perspectives on health that last long past graduation.

Charlotte Grinberg graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2013 with a degree in Anthropology.  She is entering her fourth year at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia this fall.