Student’s Passion for Photography and Public Health Nets Award

Posted: March 18, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Leah Kerkman Fogarty

Freelance photographer Sarah Day knows a thing or two about persistence. When she first learned of a photo competition sponsored by the Global Health Council in 2008, the deadline for that year’s competition had already passed. But she decided to submit a photo she had taken during a trip to Southern Sudan anyway.

“It was two days late,” Day admits. “But I thought it was worth taking a chance…and a month later I was notified that it was the winning photo.”

The photograph features an adolescent Sudanese girl at a water pump during a period Day calls “a new and tenuous peace” between Northern and Southern Sudan, just months after the signing of the Naivasha Peace Accords in January 2005 that brought an end to the 20-year civil war.

Sarah Day's award-winning photo
Sarah Day’s award-winning photo of a Sudanese girl at a water pump.

“What was significant about the image was that [the subject] had the freedom to draw water. She had the ability to go about her daily life in safety, whereas she couldn’t before,” Day explains.

“It also highlights the vulnerability of women and girls in the developing world, and the desperate need for clean water faced by 1.1 billion people around the globe.”

And that’s when Day knew she wanted to learn more about global health issues. When she returned from her trip, she researched programs and decided on CHHS’ master’s program in global health.

She enrolled in the program in September 2005 and continued to travel to Africa, paid for by international development organizations such as Pathfinder International and the African Development Foundation, who hired Day to take photos and write stories about the beneficiaries of their programs.

“It is amazing how much my education has contributed to my photography,” Day says.

Sarah Day with her award-winning photo
Sarah Day with her award-winning photo.
Images courtesy of Sarah Day

“Because of my studies and my exposure to international development, I am able to engage in really meaningful conversations; I can speak knowledgably with people about health issues at a grassroots level, in the midst of my photojournalism work.”

And Day’s clients at the nonprofits have taken notice, as well.

“The communications directors have raved about my understanding of the development field, which is due in large part to my education,” Day says. “So I continue to see photography and my education beautifully dovetail.”

In fact, photography has also helped her educational pursuits at times, too.

Because she was a finalist in the photo contest, Day received free admission to the council’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. She had always wanted to attend the conference but couldn’t afford its fees on a full-time student’s budget.

Day finished her course work in 2007 but is completing a final internship before she graduates in May.

To view more of her photography, visit her web site at

Day’s award-winning photo was featured on the cover of the Vol. 15 2009 College of Health and Human Services Dimensions magazine, from which this article is reprinted..

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