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David Geffen School of Medicine

In His Own Words: Joseph Copeland, MD ’98

  An infant in an amautiq (parka) checks out the scene
  An infant in an amautiq (parka) checks out the scene.
Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Joseph Copeland.

Joseph Copeland, MD ’98, is an urban emergency doctor in Vancouver, Canada, and a clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of British Columbia. For the past decade, he has spent part of each year treating a diverse population, including the Inuit people in the remote Canadian Arctic. Five years ago, he partnered with UCLA to establish a scholarship in international health to support current medical students with global aspirations. With that support, the UCLA Global Health Education Program has been able to send students all over the world to work on a variety of child-health projects, TB and HIV programs and surgical missions.

I came to what was then the UCLA School of Medicine with a background in public health and a degree in international relations, focusing on HIV and the developing world. Establishing the International Health Interest Group during medical school was a natural step for me. There were so many of us who wanted to gain experience overseas and build that into our careers.

During medical school, I took a year off to work with the Centers for Disease Control in Botswana. It helped clarify what I wanted to do in the future and cemented my passion. The financial support and mentoring I received from UCLA made this opportunity possible.

After earning my medical degree, I moved to Toronto, Canada’s largest and most multicultural city, for family and emergency-medicine training. To treat immigrants from all over the world,

Dr. Joseph Copeland in a remote region of Canada.  
Dr. Joseph Copeland in a remote region of Canada.
Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Joseph Copeland.

I drew on my firsthand knowledge and sensitivity to patients’ culture, language and customs. The severe acute respiratory syndrome crisis that paralyzed the city in 2003 also served as a stark reminder that diseases from around the world are only a plane ride away. Global health is really everyone’s business.

UCLA’s medical school still attracts the best and the brightest. They are as enthusiastic and idealistic as ever. With tuition now four times what it was when I was in school, it is difficult for current students to afford international experiences. The interest is great; the resources are not. Recently, I invited my classmates to contribute to the Class of ’98 Medical Student Scholarship Fund in International Health. The goal is $100,000 and the creation of an endowed fund. If you have an interest in global-medicine education, this initiative should resonate with you. Whether you are an actual or honorary member of the Class of ’98, your donations are tax-deductible, and I will match the first $5,000 in contributions.

To make a gift to the Class of ’98 Medical Student Scholarship Fund in International Health, go to: tinyurl.com/1998Fund

To learn more about the UCLA Global Health Education Program, go to: globalhealth.med.ucla.edu


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