Last Day on the Eastern Shore: August 7, 2021

Written by Julianne Hood ’22

Today was our last day on the Eastern Shore for our 2021 Global Health Fellows retreat. After most of us were working on our case competitions late into the night, we woke up groggy, packed up, and headed to the Life Center of the Bay Creek Resort. There we placed the finishing touches of our case competitions. Then we headed straight into the final presentations in front of peers and to be judged by our three judges: Carter Furr, Mrs. Hall, and Ms. Sarah DeCamp. The goal of the case competition was to create a six month emergency plan and twelve month long term plan in order to improve the mental health of health care workers in Dougherty County, Georgia with a $750,000 grant. The first group; consisting of Abby Fernandez, Jen Yuan, Liam Sullivan, and Sophie Pollio; created a six month emergency plan of providing a year’s supply of personal protective equipment to Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, posters and emails with online resources, workshops to address mental health stigmas, “Wellness Wednesday” mindfulness workshops, and surveys for hospital staff. Their twelve month plan included more hospital wide workshops with plans to continue annually, a continuation of “Wellness Wednesday”, and a final survey. Group two’s members; Avery Britt, Ben Roberts, Ryan Guzik, and Gretchen Scott; created a six month intervention consisting of a survey to assess the mental health of health care workers, cognitive behavioral therapy, and medications. Their long term plan included a class for incoming hospital staff by partnering with Norfolk’s very own Chas Foundation in order to recognize mental health issues, teaching mindfulness, and improving the hospital environment for those with PTSD. The third group to present included myself, Saoirse Dowd, Jenny Vazquez Paramo, Van Deans, and Varish Sappati. In our six month intervention we applied WHO’s Self Help Plus Program, Northampton Children Hospital’s reflective groups, and Telemedicine. On our twelve month intervention we created an app with resources, a local ad campaign to gather community support, and incorporated local surgeon, Dr. Valliere-White to destigmatize health care workers asking for mental health support. The final group made up of Mariana Duarte, Gavin Goss, Bella Burr, Joe Bakkar, and Shelby Beverly created a six month intervention including the use of therapy dogs, yoga, and relaxing essential oils. Their twelve month plan consisted of the use of the app TalkSpace, a COVID vaccine incentive campaign, and supplying more beds to a nearby hospital. This comes as no surprise, but group three won!

To finish the day, we wrote thank you letters to all of the amazing people and organizations that so generously donated their time in order to help us learn more about the Eastern Shore. We then wrote ourselves letters to our future selves about what we have learned about ourselves from the trip and to self reflect. We then boarded the bus, and our fantastic driver, Mr. Roy Newman, drove us back to Norfolk Academy safely. I’d like to end this blog post by thanking Mrs. Hall, Mr. Wetmore, Carter Furr, and the Batten Leadership Program for giving us this opportunity and planning this trip. I would also like to give thanks on behalf of the program to Ms. Sarah DeCamps and Mr. Bryan Gomes from the World Leadership School for their immeasurable contribution. Most of all, I’d like to express how amazing it was to get to know everyone better and how I cannot wait for another amazing year of global health!

Day Three on the Eastern Shore: FoodHub and ESRH

Written by Avery Britt ’22

The Global Health Fellows had an extremely productive and fun last full day. We started our morning driving to the foodbank hub where we would alternate our time between checking onions for soft spots and mold and assisting the customers as they shopped for their food. My day started in the kitchen with the onions, checking their viability so that we could set them out for the people at the food hub. Our group may have started out a bit rocky (confused by what classified a “good or bad” onion), but once we were told to peel off the first layer of the vegetable in order to see its potential mold spots, the whole group sped through our large bags of onions. We even found what we deemed to be the “perfect” onion. Precisely onion-shaped, without a single bruise, and glaring white, it outshone all the rest of the onions by miles. However, our fun with onions had to be cut short in favor of a much better time helping the people at the foodbank hub fill up their grocery bags or boxes! I got the chance to talk with so many interesting people by lending them my hand to carry their groceries. One of the coordinators even said that the box I was helping carry would go to a woman in labor with her 13th child!

After the foodbank, we headed to lunch in Eastville, where we got the chance to eat adjacent to one of the walking sites set out by Eastern Shore Healthy Communities. Our next stop wasn’t too far away from our luncheon. We drove to Eastern Shore Rural Health’s Eastville Community Health Center and received a tour from two doctors and a coordinator there. Honestly, I had never seen such a centralized hub for medicine before. They had offices for family practice, dentistry, pharmacy, and more all under one roof! I wish I had something like this near my house so my dentist and doctor wouldn’t be 20 minutes apart. 

As our time with Eastern Shore Rural Health concluded, so did our interaction with new organizations on the Eastern Shore. I hope we can keep in contact with all the great programs that we have seen on the Shore, and hopefully they’ll become integral parts of the greater network of Norfolk Academy community connections.

Now, our free time! Roy very kindly drove us to the beach to spend our last sunny day enjoying the warm water, playing spike ball (a game at which this blogger far from excels), and soccer. The ‘23s and the ‘24s stayed there for almost two hours, but we ‘22s had to return to our condos to get ready for a grilling extravaganza! Via a concerted effort, the ‘22s cooked burgers, veggie burgers, and hot dogs for all of the fellows (there never was a tastier burger). 

Post- dinner the group divided into our case competition groups for our last time before we present our pitch to win the competition. By the time we finished with the case, our adult leaders had kindly prepared us some s’mores to cap off the day! Following the delicious s’mores, the group sat down to debrief with ANCHOR (Appreciations; News; Concerns; Highlights and Hopes; Observations; Reflections). We ended with a candle circle during which each of us shared what we learned this week (about ourselves, about global health, about the Shore) that we will take with us into this upcoming year. As today was his last day with us, Bryan handed out all of the World Leadership School t-shirts to us commemorating our time with him on the Eastern Shore. 

It was the perfect cap to the perfect week, and I am so grateful to have gotten the opportunity to spend these five days with some of the greatest people in the world! 

Day Three on the Eastern Shore of Virginia

Today, we spent the morning learning about the East Coast Migrant Head Start program, which teaches the children (aged 6 weeks to 5 years) of seasonal and migrant agricultural workers in the region. Beyond just providing care and education for the kids, they help support the entire family through a variety of services. Nearly every Global Health Fellow got to spend some time playing with the kids on their playground. In my case, Liam Sullivan and I played soccer with an awesome kid, though unfortunately we couldn’t get him to tell us his name. Jen and Abby raced a few of the girls on their tricycles, and Varish turned into a lego head while building with a few kids. It was really interesting to learn how much their enrollment has shifted on the Shore over the past several years, as the migrant farmer population has decreased due to immigration policy, and just the men are coming now instead of bringing their entire families. Transportation is also a huge issue for the families, as it seems to be highlighted as a top issue on the Shore in nearly every conversation we have had with organizations this week.

After our time with the Head Start Project, we visited a local plant nursery, where they manage over 200 acres of farmland. We toured the property on the bus, and asked one of the workers about the conditions regarding migrant workers. In the nursery’s case, a large portion of their employees stayed for several years due to the good pay.

After this, we drove up to Onancock to kayak on Onancock Creek for the afternoon with Bill and Mary Burnham of Burnham Guides. We kayaked for a few hours, two people per kayak. I was yet again with Liam, and we led the pack. The guides were fantastic, and told us about the state of the watershed, including how invasive plant species are catalyzing shoreline erosion. It was an absolutely beautiful afternoon and a fun way to see the natural beauty of the Shore.

We went to dinner nearby, where we wished a very happy birthday to our amazing bus driver, Roy Newton. After we got home to Cape Charles for the evening, we worked in our case competition groups – coupling case comp work with a bake-off. Each case comp group brought a baked good creation to our evening ANCHOR reflection session, and they were judged by appearance and taste. The lemon bars with strawberry flowers took the appearance category, while the classic brownies won the taste competition. Our leaders of the day, Gavin and Julianne, shared their personal stories about why they became Global Health Fellows and why the program has been important to them. 

Day Two on the Eastern Shore (August 4, 2021)

Written by Avery Britt ’22

Ah the rain… normally synonymous with groggy and sad moods, our Global Health Fellows persisted in spite of the weather conditions. We started our day riding on the bus to Onancock, heading to the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore and No Limits Eastern Shore. The bus ride was full of plenty of fun games and program bonding, including Contact, a word-guessing game. Arriving at the Foodbank, we were met with what else but rain! A downpour soaked our bags and shirts as we hurried into the warehouse. When we got into the foodbank, we got a brief introduction to all that the organization offers. They serve about 13,000 of the 68,000 people on the Eastern Shore, which while a sobering reminder that many people on the Eastern Shore are food insecure, it was also heartening to know that the foodbank has the reach to care for all these citizens. After our intro, our group split into two for the first time. With half of us heading to No Limits next door and the other half staying at the Foodbank warehouse, we began our journey to discover what these organizations bring to the Eastern Shore community.

Personally, my group stayed at the foodbank during the first rotation. We continued our game of contact from the bus to fill the quiet that we had as we packed grocery bags full of fresh potatoes. We probably got through at least 100 pounds of potatoes, but we didn’t stop there! After we had finished packing this starchy vegetable, we moved on to its leafy green brethren. Although it’s hard to measure greens in weight, my group of six bagged about half as many greens as potatoes. The work of the six people stationed at the food bagging section seemed to surprise all of us because we completed our bagging job pretty quickly. My group of six then merged with the other group working with sorting through expired food. The fellows sorted through carts full of potentially expired food, getting to put a lot of it back on the shelf to be enjoyed by a family, but also unfortunately having to throw too much of it away because it passed its date. But we completed that job just as quickly as the bagging job! So, the fellows moved on to a different type of bagging. The entire group at the foodbank (group one was we were demarcated) formed a Ford Automotive-esque assembly line to pack to-go bags full of different items. My portion of the assembly line included adding peaches to the bag that would eventually be rolled up and placed into two big, empty containers, which we filled up!

The foodbank was a wonderful experience, but we had to switch out so that the other group could have their chance. But before we had the opportunity to experience No Limits, we ate a tasty packed lunch in a screened-in porch adjacent to a chicken coop—a coop which we later found out belonged to the No Limits team. No Limits is an organization which provides activities for clients with traumatic brain injuries to improve and maintain the parts of the brain responsible for cognition, attention, memory, movement, and communication. They also provide information and referral services for brain injury survivors. At their center, the Global Health Fellows got to play a few rounds of cornhole with the guests before talking about the ways teenagers can prevent traumatic brain injury. Even though my team lost the cornhole, due to an 11th hour comeback from our counselor, Sarah, the game was definitely a highlight of the day and probably even the entire trip. 

Post-No Limits, the group returned to the bus, where we continued with our game play. Specifically this time we chose to spend our bus time playing with the people in our cohort (grade level). That 45 minute bus ride flies by when you’re playing a great game! 

Upon our return to the condos, we went right into a quick walk to the beach where we enjoyed various spike ball and soccer games. The walk to and return from the beach featured a lot of great conversations had by everyone in the GHF Program. We all then had a delicious dinner of tacos cooked by our 23s and 24s. After the dinner, we had more time to work in our case competition groups with all of us coming up with pretty great ideas to help healthcare workers in Dougherty county with mental health during and post-pandemic. 

We ended the day with a debrief and reflection led by our leaders of the day, Mariana ‘22 and Gavin ‘22. All in all, it was a great day despite the icky weather. And, we hope that tomorrow will bring more fun, adventure, and (hopefully) sunshine. 

Global Health Fellows head to the Eastern Shore

Written by Jen Yuan ’23

The Global Health Fellows’ summer experience kicked off on Monday, August 2, as all the GHFs gathered on the NA campus for a day of learning and team bonding, orchestrated and led entirely by the senior cohort. We played some fun Olympic-themed icebreakers, had a Global Health 101 crash course, during which we learned some important global health jargon and concepts (mortality vs. morbidity; equality vs. equity; efficacy vs. effectiveness, for example), had a COVID update on the Delta variant and engaged in an interesting discussion about next steps in the vaccination rollout, and prepped for our upcoming week on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. It was so incredible to gather together, all 18 Global Health Fellows, to prep for our first time off-campus together since COVID hit. It was a memorable day. 

Tuesday morning, we loaded up the NA bus and headed out to the Eastern Shore. Although we aren’t going abroad to places like Belize, heading up to the Eastern Shore to apply our classroom knowledge and bond more with our fellows is pretty exciting.

Our first destination was the Barrier Islands Center, home to around 7500 artifacts from the Barrier Islands off of Virginia’s coast. There, we met up with counselors from the World Leadership School, Bryan and Sarah. They led us first through some team bonding exercises outside on the fields: values/fears, what we hope to get out of this week, and general introductions. My favorite activities were the “Marshmallow” activity and the Helium stick. It took us a few tries to make it over the “river” in the first activity, but we learned how to better communicate at the end of it. The Helium Stick was… a tougher challenge. I swear that none of us were lifting the stick up, but that thing just kept rising towards the sky (and also sideways). With some great senior leadership and a lot more struggling, we did manage to lower the Helium Stick to the ground. It was VERY entertaining.
Overall, the morning was a great bonding experience for all of us!

When we finished lunch, we headed into the BIC. Sally Dickinson, executive director of the BIC, gave us a tour and background of the barrier islands. We watched a short documentary called “Our Island Home,” in which three former residents of the barrier islands talk about their lives. It was heartbreaking to hear that their culture and way of life are completely gone now. 

After the documentary, we were set loose to explore the house and the exhibits. My favorite area of the house was the room that housed the duck decoys made by Mr. Cobbs. The woodworking was so beautiful and it’s shocking (but not unbelievable) that these decoys go for up to $400k now. 

After the tour of the BIC, we headed into the almshouse behind the main building to meet with Patti Kiger, executive director of the Eastern Shore Healthy Communities coalition. She talked a little about what the ESHC does and how they were originally focused on reducing obesity on the Eastern Shore, specifically in Northampton and Accomack counties of the lower Shore. My favorite part of our meeting was when she discussed ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and how childhood traumas can play a part in future health issues. It had never occurred to me that some chronic illnesses can be caused by childhood trauma. 

When we wrapped up our conversation with Mrs. Kiger, we finally headed to our condos at Bay Creek near Cape Charles. The houses are really, really nice, and we have tons of food and snacks! 
After getting settled, everyone headed over to one of the boys’ condos, which will be serving as our “meeting area.” Sarah and Bryan led us through an activity called AMP (Analyze Manage Prepare). We were broken up into a few teams and identified possible risks in our condos, work sites, pools, etc. 

When we finished the AMP activity, we took a short break to eat dinner- pizza!

This week, the Global Health Fellows are broken into 4 Olympic teams to work on a case competition: Pandemic PTSD: Addressing the Mental Health Crisis of Health Care Workers in the Time of COVID-19. Each group will present their solution and proposed budget on Saturday morning, and a winner of the case comp will be determined. This evening, we had the first chance to work together in our teams. My group, comprised of Abby, Liam, Sophie, and I, did pretty well- we did some solid initial research and had some great ideas. I don’t know who will be blogging on the day we present, but lookout for a team called Patty and Co. We’re going to crush the competition. 

Everyone then gathered outside to debrief the day. We wrapped up at around 9:20, so we had until 10:30 to chill. I played scrabble with the ’23 and ’24 girls, while others played other games.
Overall, today was a great first day. Looking forward to the week!

Virtual 2020 GHF Gathering: IGNITE!

What is Ignite? Our first ever Global Health Fellows virtual three day event to connect, collaborate, and set the tone for the 2020-2021 school year. This inaugural gathering is a pilot where we, as fellows and directors, will develop and create a new shared experience to understand our world and the global health landscape as well as see our purpose and calling during such unprecedented times.

Theme: Engaging Our Communities Based on survey responses and group feedback sessions, the call to engage with our local community is clear!

First day of GHF Ignite, recounted by Leila Jamali ‘21 and Maddie Brooks ‘21

We began our first day of the GHF gathering with an introduction / storytime from our directors and an icebreaker: where would you go in the world if you could go anywhere right now? After the introductions, we finally met our running partners for the coming year. These running partners (one senior, one junior, one sophomore) are accountability teams to check in on one another, provide feedback and support on projects, etc. After a short break, we were joined by Lauren Kiger (NA Class of 2002, Director of Corporate Philanthropy at CHKD) who talked to us about her experience with philanthropy and CHKD’s new mental health program and building. It was amazing to see a new kind of program for children relating to mental health in our local area. 

Lauren Kiger (NA ’02; Director of Corporate Philanthropy at CHKD) presenting about the new CHKD Mental Health Hospital and expanded services.

We then shifted into our case competition work, where Mrs. Hall initially introduced the process along with the task we have been given surrounding the case, “Towards Equity, Efficiency, and Eradication: Cervical Cancer Control in Rwanda.” For the next two days, we will be working in groups to propose a more comprehensive Cervical Cancer Program in the form of a presentation, which will be judged by a professional panel! After a quick discussion about the 6 Elements of Success, the essential components for any successful intervention or project, including adequate funding, political champions, and technical innovations, we dove into working on this case. We broke into our teams to discuss how to begin research and development of a program for this case. 

Finally, we introduced “elevator pitches,” short descriptions of your program/idea or of yourself in relation to your program. For our purpose, Global Health Fellows use these quick pitches to introduce speakers or strangers to what our fellows group is or who we are. We will be able to practice these with each other in the coming days and start to develop a stronger GHF bond!

It was a great first day together (virtually), and a good kickoff to the upcoming year!


Second day of GHF Ignite, recounted by Ella Davis ‘21 and Anaiya Roberts ‘21

The second day of IGNITE: A GHF Kickoff  began with a few bumps and bruises. Caught in the aftermath of a particularly windy tropical storm, a few students didn’t have power that morning – a predicament that proved to be especially challenging through virtual communication. Nonetheless, we were able to quickly get in touch with one another and delay the start of our Zoom gathering to begin with a presentation from Dr. Tom Chamberlain

Dr. Chamberlain talked to the majority of the GHFs along with Mr. Wetmore about Healthier757: a community-wide health literacy initiative to improve the health and wellness of Hampton Roads’ citizens and the economic prosperity of our region. His talk really enhanced our vision of working locally this year, and it was especially empowering to learn that some of their work directly targets student health literacy. In the spring, Michela Jones ‘21 tackled that issue with Dr. Chamberlain’s EdLogics platform, aimed at improving health literacy through interactive games, and created a friendly competition between all Fellows groups. Through rewards and a lot of smack talk, we were all able to better comprehend different health issues. 

After meeting with Dr. Chamberlain, we continued on with the events planned for the rest of the day. Following a short break, to regroup and assess the virtual accessibility of students, we met within our case competition groups to prepare for our presentations the next day. The case competition this year was based on a case from UVa centered around cervical cancer control in Rwanda. Each group had to propose an idea to the Rwandan government to more efficiently and effectively control cervical cancer cases in the country. 

After time with our groups, we decided that it would be best to end the day with a silly icebreaker, after the difficulty of the day. The icebreaker of the day was for each student to pick a movie to watch, if they could only watch one for the rest of their lives. This simple question was followed by a lot of silent, muted Zoom laughter. It was a light-hearted end to a stressful day.


Third day of GHF Ignite

Recounted by Erin Clayton ‘21

And just like that, we arrived to the final day of IGNITE 2020! Michela and I kicked the day off with a quick icebreaker of, “If you had to delete all but one app from your phone, what would you keep?”. I loved hearing the different answers everyone had and reasons behind their choice! Next in the morning, Mrs. Eskander led us in a current events discussion, mainly regarding COVID-19. We broke into breakout groups and deliberated the complex decision to return to school, and it was very interesting to better understand everyone’s different point of view.

Discussing COVID-19 in Virginia

We swiftly moved into a final 15 minute practice with our case groups, and then met our judges for the competition: Gabi Diskin (NA and GHF ‘18, UVa ‘22), Sara Krivascy (UVa ‘20), and Mr. Wetmore! Gabi is a Norfolk Academy Global Health Fellow alum from the Class of 2018, so it was great to reconnect with her as she is now entering in the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at UVA (in fact, she participated in a competition of this same case at UVA earlier this year!). Sara is a recent graduate of UVA and was the lead case writer of this case, so she was able to provide an amazing perspective on how to approach a solution. And of course, we know Mr. Wetmore as the Director of the Batten Leadership Program at Norfolk Academy. 

GHFs hearing from GHF Alums Gabi Diskin ’18 and Justine Kaskel ’17.

Recounted by Michela Jones ‘21:

Following the introduction of our judges we moved into our first case competition presentations of 2020. Everyone did a great job, and especially the 23s as it was their first case competition as Global Health Fellows. The judges provided some productive feedback with many challenging questions after each group presented. Afterwards, the judges and directors deliberated and selected the group of Ella, Abby, Julianne, Bella, and Gavin as the winners (congrats!). Their solution centered around the comprehensive training and use of Community Health Workers (CHWs) to promote self-screening, implementing further sexual health educational programs in schools, and recruiting President Paul Kagame as the initiative’s champion and social media advocate.

We shifted our attention to a panel of Norfolk Academy and Global Health Fellow alums including Gabi Diskin from the Class of 2018, Justine Kaskel, from the Class of 2017, and James Hood from the Class of 2019. They provided some insight on their lives and gave us some feedback about college and Norfolk Academy. It’s always nice to catch up with former NA students.

James Hood (NA GHF ’19 and Dartmouth ’23) speaking to the GHFs about his summer experience COVID contact tracing in Virginia Beach.

Next up, we broke up by cohort and reflected on IGNITE 2020. Finally, we all came together and shared some concluding thoughts. It was great to connect virtually with all the Global Health Fellows these past few days and we can’t wait to bring the energy from IGNITE directly into the 2020-2021 school year!!

Exploring Duke & the Orange County Health Department (Laura Read ’20)

The second day of August began in the sluggish morning haze when Mariana, Michela, and I made our way downstairs to have some of the hotel breakfast. At 8:15, everyone gathered their things and to head onto the bus, where Roy was waiting outside.

Our first stop of the day was Duke University, where we met with a representative from GPSA, Brittany Ploss. Since we arrived early, we of course had to seize the opportunity to take the classic GHF picture on the steps of the Chapel. It was interesting to hear directly from GPSA, since we work so closely with them. Brittany presented on her life work in part with neurosurgery in Uganda. She gave fascinating statistics: that Duke Hospital has 13 neurosurgeons to serve less than 300 thousand people, while Uganda has just 2 neurosurgeons to serve 39 million people. Mulago Hospital is the only national referral hospital in the entire country. However, while equipped with quality care in the ICU, the four beds are not enough to meet the demand. Patients often have to wait for access to ventilators to receive care, which could mean days or weeks on the waitlist. Beyond surgery, there is little to no acute monitoring of patients due to too much need and not enough nurses. The hospitals Mbarara and Gulu are also equipped to deal with neurosurgery, however, the deal with the same issues as Mulago in addition to nonfunctioning machinery and a lack of biomedical technicians and engineers. Innovation is a crucial component of hospital work in Uganda. For example, without access to bone drills, doctors and nurses working in orthopedics adapted a power drill to function the same way. Brittany’s next steps are to continue to plan for neurosurgery expansion to other sites and work on funding for CT scanners, service contracts, and local infrastructure.

Our next location was the Duke Clinical Research Institute, where we met with Dr. Kevin Watt and Dr. Kanecia Zimmerman . We had an interesting discussion about the meaning of clinical research, which involves the ways medicines work and how different bodies metabolize different drugs. In fact, 25% of all drugs prescribed to children are not approved by the FDA, which suggests there is not sufficient research to determine if they are truly safe for use in pediatrics. The Clinical Research Institute’s job is to appeal to the FDA following research to prove the efficacy and safety of doses. Study, design trials, collaboration, and data analysis are all critical factors of working in this field.

After driving to Orange County, we had a brief half hour window to find and eat lunch. Being a small town, the restaurants were all family owned and sit down. It was a bit of a struggle having to find a fast place, but we eventually settled on a grocery store on Weaver Street. 

Our final stop was the Orange County Health Department. We met with many representatives and discussed the public health system in North Carolina. Dental health, translating across different languages, opioid prescription lock boxes, and risk management were just some of the topics covered. It was interesting to hear about sanitation in public health: Pools turn out to be much more gross than they seem, especially when everyone carries about 0.14 grams of fecal matter with them when they go into the water. 

In the evening, Ells selected Blaze Pizza for dinner. Personally I had vegan dough with mine and it was very enjoyable. We concluded the day with roses and thorns, which is always a good time for laughing and bonding. Afterwards we left to our rooms to continue work on our case study competition for the next day. 

Overall, the days were long but the week was short. I enjoyed spending time with my fellow peers, amazing directors, and learning in depth about such an interesting field. I think my last retreat as a 2020 fellow was a success and I will definitely miss these trips. I’m so grateful for all the opportunities this program has given me, and it’s hard to believe that it’s already the beginning of the end.

Taking on a busy day (Sahib Chandi ’20)

Today was jam packed with four incredible sessions across the Durham-Chapel Hill area. After breakfast, we quickly headed over to our first stop: IntraHealth International. The leader of the day, Julia, briefed us all about the mission and work of IntraHealth as an organization focused on addressing the need for health workers around the world. As we started our day, Pape Gaye, the Executive Chief Officer, introduced us to IntraHealth, highlighting that there is an estimated global shortage of 18 million health workers. From there, we dove right into a discussion of HIV/AIDS and its key populations, particularly about the story of an LGBTQ man from Senegal who sought ARV treatment. We also covered IntraHealth’s role in advocacy, especially in Washington. On the national level, they reported that Congress introduced recognition for the global need of health workers. We also learned about their fellowships, which they offer to masters and doctoral students who seek to advocate for health workers in their own ways. Before we left, I had the chance to talk to one of our hostesses about the role of Community Health Workers in Belize, discussing their importance to a fragile and often informal healthcare system.

Our next stop was the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (UNC). Dr. Alice Ammerman welcomed us warmly and we began a discussion into her work in Nutrition, covering food access, GMOs, food deserts, and innovative solutions to break down the socioeconomic barriers to nutritious foods. Particularly, she talked about the initiative Good Bowls, which makes frozen, pre-made meals at an affordable cost. Dr. Ammerman also took a great interest in our projects in Belize. When we asked for advice about behavioral change, she mentioned an idea known as Behavioral Economics. In the simplest way put, she described it as a slight nudge through consumer incentive rather than simply telling those consumers what they should do. As we think about revising our projects, we plan to consider some of Dr. Ammerman’s advice on behavioral change. 

After lunch on UNC’s famed Franklin street, the Global Health Fellows made their way to the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, where we listened to presentations from four Gillings students. Dirk Davis, Director of the LGBTQ Health Disparities Research Collaborative, discussed HIV/AIDS in the context of the LGBTQ community. Specifically, Davis discussed a Guatemalan intervention to combat the hestancies that LGBTQ have when seeking healthcare: a health navigator who connects patients with the healthcare system. It was found that 100% of those who had a navigator received ARV treatment within three months. Next, we heard other presentations that addressed food labeling and taxes against obesity in Chile, research on the Emotional Burden of Type 2 Diabetes, and a career path toward addressing key challenges in clinical quality of care. From these four presentations, I strengthened my knowledge of key Global Health concepts, such as stigma and boundaries, behavioral change, and the poor-resourced setting of care. 

At the final stop of our day, we went back to Durham to an organization called FHI360, a nonprofit seeking to improve health worldwide through a variety of fields such as economics, education, and healthcare solutions. At this point of our day, I can speak for all of us when I say we were tired. But, this visit was perhaps the most engaging we have had. Splitting into focus groups of four, we were visited by five speakers in a “speed dating” sort of fashion. This approach let each group have a meaningful dialogue with each professional. Some ideas that stuck with me from this visit was creative forms of physical, dissolvable contraception, key factors in U.S. health disparities (ie location and income), and the importance of data collection. To conclude our visit, our visit coordinators brought in two students who gave us advice about college and academic pursuits, telling us to keep an open mind to explore topics and to “ always do your lecture readings.” 

Today was the busiest day we have had on this year’s retreat, but it was also my favorite. I learned so much from people who were incredibly passionate and hopeful about their work’s impact on the global community. 

Our first day in North Carolina (Ella Davis ’21)

We greeted each other bright and early this morning at 7:15 am. Feeling a little bit groggy, we were anxiously awaiting our next 3 days in Durham, getting to explore the expansive field of global health. With Sahib as our leader of the day, we endured a 3 hour drive and arrived in Durham in time for a wonderful lunch on 9th Street. Instead of the usual Panera or Chipotle, we were challenged to try the local cuisine. With that in mind, our 2021 cohort ate a surprisingly delicious lunch at the Mad-hatter Cafe. With full stomachs, our group set off to the Duke Global Health Institute where we were welcomed by Dr. Clements, the director of undergraduate global health studies and medical school programs, as well as a professor in many different subjects. He was assisted by Ms. Erin Degerman and Ms. Lysa Mackeen, who were both crucial factors in creating an awesome day for us. We began with a briefing on global health challenges, as well as small group discussions about the factors and issues of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and respiratory diseases. We were all given character to play of all different ages and ethnicities, challenged to provide a unique perspective to each disease. Following this simulation, we were given characters within our own context of Norfolk, VA and were given a scenario of a major influenza epidemic, tasked with being able to communicate a feasible plan to the public. Our characters soon sorted into groups based on job similarities, such as government, medicine, and education, and we began a heated debate filled with lots of loud people and wild ideas.

Eventually, the mayor of Norfolk, played by Ells, was able to communicate our plan appropriately to the rest of the city. We ended up learning a lot about real life situations and leadership skills that adults today are still challenged with. I really loved being able to figure out our own solution in a situation where we didn’t know the end result, and I think it was very beneficial to everyone to see how people actually deal with crisis. After thanking and saying goodbye to the wonderful individuals responsible for our day at Duke  Global Health Institute, we left, checked into our hotel, and headed out for dinner. Of course, we all stuffed ourselves full of ice cream for dessert, and convened in Mrs. Goodson’s room for our daily reflection. Sahib led us in our regular roses and thorns, and then we split up to work on our case study competition that will be taking place throughout the retreat. After about an hour of preparation, we enjoyed quality time together before heading to bed for another early morning, beginning the second day of our 2019 GHF adventure!

Summer Retreat 2019! (Julia Duarte ’19)

As July comes to a close and August sneaks around the corner to surprise us, the fellows commenced their annual retreat when the ‘20s and ‘22s gathered in the gloomy, windowless room called Lyons at 8:30 in the morning and filled it with smiles and enthusiasm for the upcoming week. Dunkin donut holes and coffee fueled us through our tradition of the beach ball ice breaker where everyone got two chances to toss the beach ball covered with fun questions made by former fellow Gabi Diskin. Many interesting responses later, Sahib and I split the whole group in half and lead a discussion geared toward the ‘22s to help them get a sense for the vast field of Global Health as well as how it ties in with the work that we do in Belize. This activity was done in hopes of defining the term “global health” for themselves before we explained key global health concepts and terms in a presentation. However, before the long period of lecture, Mrs. Goodson asked the ‘22s to write a candid letter to themselves about their experience in Belize which is a longstanding tradition in this program. After the seniors and I had readied the powerpoint and the sophomores had handed in their letters, the long presentation began. To quote Mrs. Goodson, the process was best described as “taking a sip from a fire hydrant”. We began giving the youngest fellows much information to be absorbed, such as the difference between communicable and non-communicable diseases, important health determinants, and the global health trends of today. And because that wasn’t enough to take in already, we dived into an explanation of the six elements of success that we use to help guide our analysis of case studies. ‘22s, I promise that everything we presented to you today will sink in and soon enough, you’ll be spouting the terms you learned today as if it should be in anyone’s regular vocabulary. 

After a short break where we restocked on energy through donuts and Oreos, I lead the second ice breaker of the day. The rules are a bit complicated so I’ll save you the confusion of trying to figure them out. However I will say I named it the Animal Name Game. Following this was a reading and discussion of a case study about HIV/AIDS prevention in Thailand lead by Laura. We broke out into small groups to read over the case and pick out the six elements of success in the outside air first before convening back in Lyons and holding a discussion about the important takeaways from this case. The ‘22s stepped up to offer their interesting insights and the ‘20s naturally steered the course of the conversation with. Soon after, Sahib and Connor stepped out to grab our Chick fil a lunch of the day. As the rest of us waited, we reflected on why we were Global Health fellows and our journey with the program so far. Each of us, even the ‘22s, presented our small pitches of reflection to the group in hopes of making sure everyone had an idea of what to say in the event that they were asked by a stranger. Next was lunch. The usual fun atmosphere migrated with us to the Oliver lounge as we ate chicken nuggets and welcomed the ‘21s who trickled in at 12:30. 

A pause in narration: Sahib just relayed to me that my blog was quite lengthy so from now on I’ll try my best to leave out the details and cover the important activities of the day. 

After lunch, Sahib lead a Random Fact guessing game. We learned that Anaiya has never broken a bone, Avery knows all of the US presidents by heart, and Sahib, the vegetarian may I remind you, likes the taste of pepperoni. Once the laughs had died down, the seniors and I held a formal debrief of this year’s trip to Belize. Every leader of each project had the chance to speak up about stressors and successes that they met on the ground and how they plan on moving forward. A seed of brainstorming was planted in all of us and this school year will serve as a tweaking time for our projects. Next was the book discussion for our summer reading book, Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. The seniors all came up with thought provoking questions prior to this day and the ‘21s and ‘22s split into groups and rotated through discussions with each senior. Personally, as the discusser, it was intriguing to see how responses would differ between groups. As a big fan of ethical questions, I posed many during my ten minutes with each group and the contrasting opinions shocked me. I guess that only proves how different we are from one another. 

And the final event of the day was planning for the upcoming week. We were handed the case which we are using for the case competition and were informed of the simulation we would be put through tomorrow by the Duke Global Health Institute. We were all given a role which I know all of us are excited to play in a mock pandemic. Once the housekeeping things were taken care of, we all headed home to pack, read the case, or research our role. I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say that I am looking forward to spending my week with 17 other passionate students and 3 dedicated teachers.