Q&A with Matthew Zinck, MPH candidate in Global Health
We at Research, Innovation and Global Solutions, interviewed Matthew Zinck about his professional experience before Gillings, his first semester at Gillings, his work as a Graduate Research Assistant with the BAT Lab, and why he chose Gillings.
What was your background before enrolling in the MPH program?
I have about 4.5 years of work experience with global health non-governmental organizations (NGOs). I was a program officer with John Snow, Inc., a global public health consulting and research firm, for three years. There, I provided programmatic, financial, and administrative support to USAID global health programs. Specifically, my project portfolio included Strengthening Ethiopia’s Urban Health Program, Strengthening Egypt’s Family Planning Program, and Uganda Regional Health Integration to Enhance Services-North, Lango. I also contributed to proposal development efforts as a proposal coordinator and section writer. I then worked for 1.5 years with CRDF Global as a business development specialist. In this role, I led the global health division’s full life cycle business development including identification and qualification of opportunities, capture planning, and proposal development.
What has been your favorite part of your first semester at Gillings?
After an initial adjustment from being out of the classroom for almost five years, I was very excited to be in learning mode again. Although I have a decent amount of public health experience working on interesting projects and proposals, my role was often not focused specifically on the public health content. It has been great coming to Gillings and being able to dive into public health topics of interest through my coursework, learn new skills, and apply my relevant professional experience.
Can you tell us about your work as a Graduate Research Assistant in the BAT Lab?
The Behavior and Technology Lab (BAT Lab) studies the use technology-based interventions on behavior change to promote sexual health including HIV and other STI prevention and treatment. As a Graduate Research Assistant, I provide research support to various studies. Currently, I am helping to develop a survey for a cost analysis of two mobile applications that are focused on HIV prevention for young men who have sex with men (MSM). I also help develop content including polls, quizzes, and newsletters on various sexual health topics for the HealthMpowerment mobile app which aims to improve HIV prevention and care for young, Black and Latinx gay, bisexual and other MSM and transgender women.
In your view, how does business development fit within global health?
In a donor-driven world, business development is essential to global health practice. There are certainly warranted critiques of the global health funding landscape, but at the end of the day we need funding to implement our global health programs. We often associate this need for funding with proposal or grant writing. However, business development encompasses a larger process which includes researching and identifying funding opportunities, building relationships with donors and partners, analyzing competitors, collecting “intelligence,” forming project consortia, and creating strategic win plans, all of which occurs before you even begin writing your proposal or grant. The aim of this process is to create a pipeline of funding opportunities, increase your chance of winning new projects, and more effectively scale your work. Something that surprised me is the amount of resources that international NGOs put into business development. I think the industry is at an interesting inflection point, as donors are increasingly placing an emphasis on locally-led implementation. Hopefully, donors, international NGOs, and local organizations can work together to realize these calls for decolonization of global health.
What does “global health” mean to you?
To me, “global health” is collaborative and transnational practice and research that aims to ensure the right to health of all people, everywhere. One of my entry points into public health was through the work of Partners in Health and Dr. Paul Farmer. Their belief that those most in need deserve nothing less than the absolute best care and values of accompaniment and solidarity deeply resonated with me and inform my perspective on how partnership and practice should be implemented in global health.
What drew you to the Gillings School of Global Public Health?
I was initially drawn to the caliber and reputation of the Gillings School of Global Public Health. I was impressed with the robust academic program and rich research opportunities at the university. However, I was sold on Gillings when I talked to faculty and current students during my selection process. The way faculty and students spoke to the supportive and collaborative environment of Gillings put it ahead of any other school, and I knew I wanted to be a member of this community.
What is your dream job?
I am passionate about HIV prevention and treatment and LGBTQ health. After graduating, I hope to be in a role where I can support the design and implementation of programs that reduce health inequities for people at risk or living with HIV and LGBTQ individuals.
What’s your most “unpopular opinion” opinion?
This is a question that almost stumped me—I had to think hard about this one. I’m not sure if this is unpopular enough, but I don’t like hot chocolate. This is strange because I love chocolate in its original form!