The Pivot: Sarah Iracane
Sarah Iracane creates global networks so children can access health care.
What’s your role in public health?
I’m the chief program officer for World Pediatric Project, which is a global surgery nongovernmental organization. Our mission is to heal children and develop health care capacity by building global networks that expand access to pediatric surgical and specialty care. It is projected that 17 million lives are lost each year due to lack of access to surgical care. I believe strongly that access to health care is a fundamental human right, and I work to build programs that address inequities in access to safe surgery for children. In my role, I oversee our organization’s various program activities, develop strategies for growth, and support our international and domestic staff team.
I completed a Master of Public Health in the Gillings School’s Public Health Leadership Program in 2014. I was drawn to the program by the small size of the learning cohort and the diversity of student experiences.
Can you describe your focus area in five words?
In five words: Access to surgery for children.
But really: I develop global networks of partners and providers across sectors and across countries to ensure access to safe surgery for children and to develop local health care capacity for the future.
What brought you to public health?
After spending time living abroad, I became acutely aware of how health is fundamentally located at the intersection of all things — and that the diverse applications of public health extend far beyond how people traditionally define the field. I continued to pursue a career in public health because I am deeply interested in global inequities in health care and systems of health care delivery in other countries. I want to seek out what can we learn from one another and how we can collaborate to close gaps.
How have you pivoted in response to the coronavirus pandemic?
Our work is more important than ever, as the pandemic has greatly exacerbated preexisting inequities in health care resources around the world. Like many global health organizations, we were forced to suspend some of our core programs due to the pandemic. Closed borders, quarantine regulations and supply chain disruptions all impacted our ability to work with our international partners in the traditional way.
In the immediate response, we utilized our networks to distribute personal protective equipment and essential supplies to partner international hospitals and communities in need. As we settled into the “new normal” of the last year, we leaned heavily into technology, moving our training programs to virtual platforms and developing new and innovative remote patient screening and diagnostic programs. We also deepened and expanded our partnerships within the regions where we work to connect children in need of urgent, lifesaving care to surgical resources closer to home, thus reducing our reliance on United States charity outlets.
Who are you when you’re at home?
At home, I’m a busy mom with three kids under the age of six: Think soccer games, bike rides, backyard forts and puzzles. I love trying new restaurants with my husband — pre-pandemic of course — and spending time outdoors with my family. I love a latte and a good book in the rare moments I find quiet time alone! Becoming a mother gave me an even deeper connection to my work and conviction in the belief that all children deserve the right to good health.