SDG Zero: Human Connection

by Kritika Amanjee

I am, like many aspiring doctors, waiting for my train. I wait to enter a crowded vessel amongst overworked, overwhelmed young minds rushing to their respective destinations: the cell, pathology, drug therapy, pharmacology, biomedicine. Their eyes burn from the glare of the microscope and their lungs desperate for air outside of the fume hood. I see in them the fervor of a competitive medical student, but fail to find the warmth of a cultured physician. Frustrated by the demands of science and fearful of its demands on the doctor, I look around and realize that I am, like many aspiring doctors, waiting at the wrong station.

In the last couple of days, I carried my frustration with me to the 2016 Winter Youth Assembly at the United Nations in New York City. I hoped to gain a fresh perspective on what it really means to contribute to a greater cause as a doctor, beyond the microscope and the fume hood and the limitations of a pre-medical school education.

The two-day conference discussed the importance and implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) listed under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development set by the United Nations. As an intergovernmental initiative that encompasses a broad range of human concerns, from climate change to industry to peacekeeping, the SDGs also demand the involvement of our 1.8 billion youth to mobilize efforts and impact real change in the short deadline afforded.

Photo credit: Kritika Amanjee

Naturally, my interests gravitated towards Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. I scoured through the words of renowned panelists and contemplated deeply on how their discussion could help me find my place in health and medicine, but a voice from the General Assembly podium still seemed too far away to reach me. Yes, I know the youth of today are agents of tomorrow's change. Yes, I know our voice is important to become a transformative force. Yes, I know. But, I don't understand. Where do these skyward, almost intangible, ideas fit into the scheme of measurable change?

By the end of my short, but worthwhile, time at the assembly, I did find where those lofty ideas fit. They fit in the eyes of the hundreds of other young delegates just like me, thirsty to find their place in their own worlds. Never had I witnessed a larger group of curious minds, each more sure of her/his sense of agency and urgency than the other. These were people who didn't need to be told that their ideas and creativity must be transformed into action because they had been acting before they understood what it really meant to be a force of movement.

But beneath this force and passion, was the real source of their inspiration: a profound craving for human connection. A connection that opens doors to meaningful relations and cultural understanding, the kind that makes us more similar than different and helps us realize why platforms like the Youth Assembly at the United Nations are necessary to construct the future we restlessly envision.

This was the connection I had been craving, but didn't realize needed to fit into my world of cell cultures and micropipetting. This is the warmth necessary to become that cultured doctor, to breathe in the air outside of the fume hood, and turn our eyes to the people that deserve our compassion. I believe I can find my train station ensuring good health and well-being for all, as soon as a genuine appreciation for human culture and connection finds its destination in me.

Kritika Amanjee is a pre-medical health management, biology, and Spanish student at Union College. She finds her source of inspiration in global health development work and hopes to create sustainable models for health development.

This post is a part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in partnership with Friendship Ambassadors Foundation following the 2016 Youth Assembly at the United Nations held on February 17-18, 2016. The winter session tackled the role of youth in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. To see all posts in the series, click here.