Featured Spotlights

The Guru’s Nest

Inspired by Architectural Digest, the Standard presents the first of a series of spotlights of amazing places around campus. The Standard Digest series offers you a glimpse of the Guru’s Nest as its first feature in the hope that you too become inspired by the Guru’s surroundings.

 

 

A “short” ride away in the C2 will lead you to Trent Hall, once a dorm now headquarters to the Global Health Institute. A series of staircases, narrow halls and a myriad of rooms remind you of East campus dorms. Lost in that maze, you spot the tall, bald figure of Dr. David Boyd.

Boyd is standing in the middle of his office like one of the many interesting things you can find there. The room is decked in bookshelves that meet at the corner, with one round table in the opposite end filled with sculptures, trinkets and a bar of soap.

 

Another shelf is full of books, a giraffe statue and pictures of him and his husband on multiple trips around the globe. Above it all, the room is half circled with black and white and colored pictures of individuals and scenery I thought could only be found in National Geographic issues. Even higher up, making up a colorful garland are Guatemalan stuffed handcrafts in the shape of exotic birds. My only thought: is it too late to switch majors?

 

Boyd is known as the Global Health “Guru”. I could list his academic accomplishments (although that will make this piece quite extensive) but instead I’ll give you a portrait of the man through a portrait of his “room.”

 

I sit with him at his main desk, behind him a wall of thank you cards. The table is full of trinkets and small statues, and he gives me a summary of the most important ones. He picks up a life straw – “one of the greatest inventions in Global Health” – a plastic straw that purifies water as you drink from it. Then he picks up a box, a female condom, which he deems one of the worst failures of the field.

“These are things that remind me why what we do is so important, and that the dreams that a student has can become a reality,” Boyd said.

 

 

We turn to the wall next to his desk, a whole package of sanitary napkins stuck to it with a pin. He tells me of a former student who created a project to help women in slums in Mumbai create their own sanitary products. She had figured out that what prevented girls in these slums from attending school was a lack of sanitary products.

 

“These are things that remind me why what we do is so important, and that the dreams that a student has can become a reality,” Boyd said.

And just like that, that package of sanitary products becomes a masterpiece – priceless and timeless.

 

“All help me remember something important about global health and research,” Boyd said.

 

 

He searches about and shows me something yellowish and papery. A llama fetus, given to him by a shaman in Bolivia so he can bury it under his house as tribute to pachamama or mother earth. This man has traveled the world. All the pictures I thought were from National Geographic were taken by him. When I asked if he had a photography background, I was more than surprised by his no and that he wishes he had the time to learn. Immediately facing his desk, are the pictures he took in Guatemala, where his brainchild projects exist. All of his photos were taken during research and intervention projects.

 

“All help me remember something important about global health and research,” Boyd said.

 

Immediately below the Guatemala pictures is the giraffe statute – which is surprisingly also Guatemalan. The giraffe is supposedly as famous as he is. A few years back Boyd started filming an online intro course on global health, and he recorded them without knowing that you could peep the giraffe and an empty bottle of wine in the shelf behind him. 20,000 people worldwide took his intro course and some still ask about the giraffe. As for the empty bottle of wine, it is now somewhere under his desk reminding him of the time he got his address wrong and 26 cases of wine showed up at Trent hall.

 

Above the thank you card cluster, there are rows of cigarette packets neatly stuck to the wall. When I mentioned them, he immediately said “public health enemy number one.” He then proceeded to explain how he collects packets from around the world, because he finds interesting “how different cultures choose to advertise cigarettes.” Some appeal to children’s health and others to the possible development of impotence by smoking. Higher up, hanging from the ceiling is a blue copper wind chime, like those he has at home.

 

“I’m living in chaos a little bit,” Boyd admitted.

 

 

Everywhere you move in his office there is something to spot, and something to ask about.

 

“I’m living in chaos a little bit,” Boyd admitted. Pointing to a closet by the entrance, which he has dubbed the hell closet, he said, “for the last 8 years I’ve sworn to clean out that closet.”  The closet door is covered by an old global health talk poster; the picture is still a laughing topic among the department. It’s Boyd in the Galapagos, leaning from the boat with his head submerged in the water. Why? Because he has an unfounded fear of sharks, but he was resourceful enough to see beneath the surface without getting into the water.

“The things in the office take me back to the field – take me back to real life – and remind me of my privilege, which is really important.”

As my visit was coming to an end, I noticed that in his office door there’s a picture of the back of his head with a world painted on it. He explains how occasionally the global health department decides to cheer students up by drawing something on his head and sending it out in the newsletter.

 

I turn around to ask for one last picture of him in his office, the photographer and I both feeling a bit sad about leaving. He poses behind his main desk and next to his standing desk, which lets him “move and dance a little bit.” Boyd reflects on the room one last time.

“The things in the office take me back to the field – take me back to real life – and remind me of my privilege, which is really important.”

 

Writing this piece later, reflecting on Boyd’s answer and looking back at the pictures made me dwell on a particular thing he said. When referring to the chaos, he said “anything that makes it into my office normally doesn’t leave,” and in that respect, I think he is wrong. The aspirations, drive and talent of so many students and of Boyd himself do come in and come out of his office. They emanate from his mementos and his pictures, but above all they come from him and are translated into a wave reaction of energy and passion.

 

 

Writer: Sofia Velasquez Soler

Editors: Diana Joseph and Sofia Velasquez Soler

Photo Credits: Sophia Li

Web: Scott McConnell

You Might Also Like