Jasmine Burton, MSc Public Health alumna (2017) and Founder of Wish for WASH, talked to us about how she has developed innovative design solutions for global health equity through her social impact organisation Wish for WASH, and how her experience at Wish for WASH motivated her to study an MSc at the School.
While attending the 2011 Georgia Tech Women’s Leadership Conference, Jasmine was challenged and inspired by Susan Davis of Improve International to “do something” about the global and toilet and sanitation crisis. “This conference ignited my passion for improved WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) infrastructure around the world.”
Jasmine used her background in culturally specific design and ethnographic research gained from her studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology to found Wish for WASH, LLC – a social impact organisation that aims to bring innovation to sanitation through culturally specific research, design and education. “We seek to develop community led solutions by utilising the principles of human centred design.”
In her work Jasmine leads a cross-sector team of engineers, designers, researchers and business people. Collectively, they are working to iterate the Wish for WASH SafiChoo toilet design to meet user needs in the developing world, beginning in southern and eastern Africa with a specific focus in Zambia.
During her time working on design projects, Jasmine came to the realisation that while she remains a designer, her true happiness derives from empowering others through mutually created experiences that ultimately work towards global health equity. This realisation is what inspired her to pursue an MSc Public Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. “I knew that pursuing a Master’s in Public Health from this prestigious institution would better equip me with the ability to develop practical and effective public health interventions to test and scale sustainable and innovative solutions within resource constrained settings.”
While studying at the School, Jasmine was challenged academically in statistics and epidemiology modules, and she also had to combat an internal feeling of imposter syndrome. “Coming from a product design background and without formal training in public health, I did feel, at times, as though I was not fully qualified to be in a classroom with my astute and seasoned peers from around the world.” However, the diverse makeup of LSHTM students, alumni and professorial communities all immediately silenced this internal challenge. “Diverse perspectives, intellectual debates, and a sincere desire to engage in cross-sectoral and cultural exchange makes LSHTM such a beautiful and unique environment to realise your potential as someone passionate about public health.” The sense of community and the coherent course structure enabled Jasmine to overcome her challenges and make huge strides in advancing her careers as a WASH professional.
During her time at the School Jasmine had the opportunity to attend some of the Environmental Health Group’s meetings, volunteer with the SHARE Research consortium, enroll in the Tropical and Environmental Health module, and conduct her dissertation research under the auspices of Dr. Robert Aunger on a project that was in tandem with a global WASH project called TRANSFORM. “Deeply immersing myself in these incredible LSHTM opportunities, gaining LSHTM mentors and peers, all while taking complimentary public health coursework in Statistics, Epidemiology, and health promotion truly positioned me not only to advance the work of my social start up Wish for WASH, but to also earn an incredible job at the Toilet Board Coalition.”
As she continues to grow as a public health practitioner and WASH professional, Jasmine hopes to test the Wish for WASH toilet concept on a larger scale, while also working with the Toilet Board Coalition and other WASH agencies. She aims to effectively conduct smart sanitation, private sector engagement and global health communications research in order to help bring and utilise more diverse WASH knowledge to the sector at large.
Jasmine described the School as an incredible place “to become a part of a network of people who have immense skill-sets and passions in accelerating the world’s most ground breaking research and programmes across the globe”. She advises current students to “seek balance in your MSc experience by investing in not only your tangible studies, but also, in your network and community to fully take advantage of the opportunity you have been afforded by attending LSHTM.”
Images courtesy of Jasmine Burton. Feature image shows Jasmine speaking to students in the LSHTM 2017-2018 cohort with her advisor Dr. Robert Aunger and facilitated by Dr. Robert Dreibelbis, about her thesis and overall student experience.
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