Unite for Sight Global Health and Innovation Conference 2013

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the 10th annual Unite for Sight Global Health and Innovation Conference held at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. I attended last April, as well, and it was through conversations at the conference that pieces of our Haiti trip and programming came together. This conference is attended by students (undergraduate, graduate, medical students), educators, and professionals from all 50 states and over 50 countries. It is a jam-packed two days that leave you feeling inspired, empowered, and connected to the growing global health community.yale

Some highlights from a few of the sessions I attended:

Tina Rosenberg, Fixes columnist for the New York Times, was the opening keynote speaker, and she addressed how to harness the power of peer pressure to make positive strives in global health. She argued that the best way to change behavior (which she sees as the biggest health challenge today) is through motivation, not information sharing, and that the most credible messenger is a peer who is has already made the change. She also highlighted “time banks” – a community/neighborhood membership network that uses reciprocal service exchange that uses units of time as currency. For example, you provide services to rack up points to receive services, e.g. I drive you to the pharmacy and you come clean out my gutters. There are now about 300 “time banks” in existence in the United States, and she cited a “time bank” in Richmond, Virginia that has successfully cut asthma emergency admissions at the hospital through its peer-to-peer assistance system.

One of my favorite types of sessions to attend at the conference are the “pitches: ideas in development.” Each presenter has five minutes to pitch their idea/project in development and then receives feedback/comments/questions from the audience for five minutes.

peepoopleI attended two such sessions: “Water, Sanitation, and Environment Social Enterprise Pitches” and “Community-Based Social Enterprise Pitches.” I was intrigued to hear from Peepoople (what a name!), a Swedish company, that has designed a self-sanitizing single-use biodegradable toilet that is a short-term solution for sanitation post-disaster or in refugee camps.

wildlifeA group from Dartmouth Humanitarian Engineering presented their small-scale hydropower project in rural Rwanda that has led to income generation through battery-charging kiosks for cell phones. A veterinarian from UCDavis presented on a wildlife pathogen surveillance project, supported by USAID, which is especially relevant today with the H7N9 bird flu outbreak in China. Non-communicable diseases were a hot topic, and I was excited to hear about several projects in the works to address diabetes, hypertension, tobacco use, cancer, and lifestyle diseases.

I thoroughly enjoyed attending the “Healthcare Innovation” session; presenters included Ali Lutz of Partners in Health, Maja Pleic of the Harvard Global Equity Initiative, and Jane Aronson, founder of Worldwide Orphans Foundation. Ali Lutz had helped us coordinate our visits to PIH’s hospitals in Mirebalais and Cange last summer, and I just find her articulation of Partner in Health’s mission and “change narrative” accessible and infectious. Maja Pleic focused on “Closing the Cancer Divide” between resource-rich and resource-poor contexts – a topic Global Health Fellow Elizabeth Lilly, Class of 2016, is researching for her symposium project.

lwalaA session on Maternal and Child Health highlighted the work of the Lwala Community Alliance (Milton Ochieng, one of the founders, was my sister’s good friend from Dartmouth – small world!), mothers2mothers International, and Mercy Corps to improve neonatal morality rates, eliminate pediatric AIDS, and implement community health workers’ outreach.

Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and Sonia Ehrlich Sachs, Director of Health in the Millennium Village Project, served as the keynote addresses on Sunday. They focused on the great strides in global health in the past decade (consistent decline in “Under 5 Mortality Rate;” better diagnostics, communications, transport, medicines; universal health care is within reach; ICT applications). They introduced the campaign for one million community health workers to be working in sub-Saharan Africa by 2015.

skolnik

I enjoyed attending an interactive lecture by Richard Skolnik, the author of Essentials of Global Health, one of the books we are using with our Global Health Fellows here at Norfolk Academy.

 

There were so many other interesting talks and highlights from the conference: mHealth and mobile technology; film screenings followed by discussions with the filmmaker; advice on careers in global health; how design plays a role in global health interventions; social businesses; environmental health. I could go on and on.

The six current and the five newly-minted Global Health Fellows were at the forefront of my mind all weekend. Though our program is still in its infancy, I could see our Fellows standing up to “pitch” their ideas to the global health community at this conference one day in the not-too-distant future.

Out of the Classroom: Observing Surgery and Documentary Screenings

After investigating a case study on treating cataracts in India, the Global Health Fellows were fortunate enough to be able to observe cataract surgeries at Virginia Eye Consultants on March 19 and March 21. A huge thank you to Dr. Scoper, Dr. Lago, and the entire team at Virginia Eye Consultants for making this unforgettable experience possible for us!

Cataract Surgery 1

Cataract Surgery 2

cataract 3

On March 18, the Global Health Fellows attended a screening of Girl Rising, a documentary-narrative hybrid about nine extraordinary girls from around the world and the opportunities afforded them by education. It is clear the link between education and health, both on an individual level and on a community level, and the film spoke to each one of us. We encourage you to find or host a screening near you!

In the Classroom: Leadership Sessions

Throughout the semester, the Global Health Fellows have joined the International Relations Fellows and Chesapeake Bay Fellows in a series of workshops as part of their leadership curriculum through the Center for Civic and Global Leadership.

On February 5, in keeping with the leadership theme of the year, “Lead Yourself,” we hosted Kevin Denson on campus to speak with the Fellows about their personality types and how it might affect their leadership styles. They completed the HumanMetrics Jung Typology Test (similar to Myers-Briggs) in preparation for the session.

Leadership - Denson

After learning about different personality types and different types of leaders, each cohort of Fellows worked together to compete against the other cohorts to design and construct the tallest possible structure made out of uncooked spaghetti, string, and a marshmallow. The International Relations ’16 cohort might have won this year, but the Global Health Fellows’ strategy was visionary. Just wait until next year, IRFs…

Chesapeake Bay Fellows, Class of 2016

Chesapeake Bay Fellows, Class of 2016

International Relations Fellows, Class of 2016

International Relations Fellows, Class of 2016

Global Health Fellows, Class of 2016

Global Health Fellows, Class of 2016

 

On February 15, Julius Johnson, Afghanistan Field Training Coordinator for the U.S. State Department, spoke with the Fellows about international development and diplomacy through his work with the State Department. Mr. Johnson shared with the Fellows an amazing variety of experiences he has had around the world, from Japan to Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan.  Dr. Rezelman commented, “He spoke movingly about the difficulties, and the joys, of international development work.  By the end of his talk, and the Q&A and that followed, students were inspired to make the world a more peaceful and just place.”

Leadership - Julius Johnson 3

Elizabeth Lilly ’16 reflected on her time with Mr. Johnson: “I had been looking forward to Dr. Johnson’s talk for a long time, ever since I heard of Muscatatuck. Hearing about his work in Afghanistan through the Time video only added to my curiosity. I really enjoyed what he had to say, especially his anecdotal approach to teaching. I also thought it was fascinating how he described how abstract ideas such as time and space could be so different in foreign cultures. I found myself thinking during his presentation about my potentially traveling to a culture in which I felt uncomfortable (I do have a pretty small ‘comfort zone,’ after all), and how I would react. He definitely gave me a lot to think about!”

Bridget Dickinson ’16 felt that “the one main thing he said that stood out to me was listen, learn, and then lead.”

Leadership - Julius Johnson 2

On March 14, Angela Cyrus (CAPT, USN [ret.]) returned to Norfolk Academy to speak to the Fellows about leadership.  Dr. Cyrus is the president of the Cyrus Group, an organization committed to “developing powerful leaders who have skill-based competence to lead in a more complex, knowledge driven market and self-confidence to authentically lead others to achieve extraordinary results.”  Formerly director of admissions at the United States Naval Academy, Dr. Cyrus remains on the faculty at Annapolis within the Leadership, Law, and Ethics Department and serves on the faculty of the Harvard Summer Institute on College Admissions. Dr. Cyrus challenged and then proved to the “future leaders of the world” to always start with the right question. The group worked through an exercise together where they learned that in order to get the right answers one first has to ask the right questions.

Leadership - Cyrus 1

Aneesh Dhawan ’16: I was extremely impressed with Captain Cyrus’s presentation. After her presentation I have started to view many problems differently. I wonder if we are asking the right questions to solve many of the world’s problems. Her emphasis of breaking down the problem and attacking it in smaller pieces was also very interesting. Breaking down the problem into smaller pieces allows for people to attack the problem at a small scale. These small-scale interventions can add up, and eventually the problems are solved. Overall the presentation was eye opening, and it was very interactive. Capt. Cyrus was able to lead us through an example, which we made up right on the spot. Her ability to lead the example, we had just come up with, showed that she knew what she was talking about.

Stuart Luter ‘16: I really enjoyed Capt. Cyrus’s talk. In the past I had never considered the importance of the question in solving a problem. I found it interesting when she talked about arguments and how often times people are arguing sides to a different question. I enjoyed being engaged in the conversation: expressing our ideas and supporting/opposing each other in order to discover the correct question to ask to solve a problem. Captain Cyrus also made me feel very inspired and excited in the fact that I can make a difference in the future.

Leadership - Cyrus 3

On March 20, the Fellows joined together to investigate the characteristics of morally courageous leaders through discussing Rushworth Kidder’s Moral Courage. Upon reflection on the discussion, Brian Peccie ’16 commented, “Moral Courage by Rushworth Kidder is a book that describes the qualities of a morally courageous person and provides examples that inspire someone to want to become morally courageous. In order for moral courage to be expressed, there must be three factors present: there must be principles within the person, a dangerous opposing factor, and the person must be enthusiastic about what he does. This applies to all the Fellows. If we want to solve a truly challenging problem, we must have the principles of knowing what to do at the right time and the background knowledge about the problem, an opposing factor such as a failure, and the confidence, willingness, and enthusiasm to fight through the negative factors in order to succeed.”

On April 4, the Fellows were charged to take initiative through discussion of the short story “A Message to Garcia” led by NA faculty member Bernie McMahon. Elizabeth Lilly ’16, upon reflection of the conversation, commented, “Immediately upon reading A Message to Garcia, I was struck by how easily it related to my life. Of course, I’m not traversing the jungles of Cuba to deliver an important military message. But I do find myself guilty of this incessant question-asking – and reluctance to do the tasks asked of me (even the very minor ones). “Figure it out” is an important message, and one that must be taught starting at a young age. However, one must also be careful to not blindly follow orders; it is in this way that evil and injustices are perpetrated worldwide. But the main message I got out of Mr. McMahon’s (very engaging!) discussion was the call to become a compelled leader. Only once I reach this status will I be able to make a true difference in the world which, after all, is the ultimate goal.”

Leadership - McMahon - Message to Garcia

In the Classroom: Case Study Analyses

Over the past few months, the Global Health Fellows, Class of 2016, have led one another in analyzing case studies exploring successful public health interventions across the globe.

Ms. Massey kicked off the presentations with a look at Preventing HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Thailand. Elizabeth Lilly ’16 reflected, “Previously I’d felt a little uncomfortable with the topic of HIV/AIDS. It’s such a huge issue in the global health arena, but I didn’t know anything about it before Ms. Massey presented. I was so glad that I learned about it so fully. As for Thailand’s approach to the problem, it was fascinating to see how a huge media push could produce such booming and widespread results. It’s a personal topic, obviously, but keeping it in the shadows is only going to make the situation worse.”

Elizabeth Lilly ’16 presented a thorough look at a few women’s health issues before leading the cohort in a fascinating discussion about Reducing fertility in Bangladesh.

Case Study - Lilly - Fertility

Wyatt Miller ’16 led a discussion on Controlling Chagas Disease in the Southern Cone of South America. Stuart Luter ’16 reflected, “ I thought that it was interesting to read and discuss a case study that deals with prevention versus treatment. It was interesting to see how effective prevention can really be, and how essential it is to prevent a disease especially when it can’t be treated.  The most interesting part of the case study was the way in which the countries came together to solve a health crisis. Relationships between countries play a huge factor in health, and it was interesting to observe the parallel between International Relations and Global Health.”

Case Study - Miller - Chagas

Stuart Luter ’16 taught the cohort about Controlling onchocerciasis in sub-Saharan Africa. Elizabeth Lilly ’16 reflected, “It was interesting once again to learn about an exotic disease with which I was not familiar in the slightest. The multinational approach to combating the problem was something we’d seen in Wyatt’s case study on Chagas disease, and in the case of the OCP it merely reinforced something we’ve been learning for a while: that to truly make global change, countries must work together. Merck’s distribution of Mectizan is incredibly inspiring to me – here is a company with a vision to change the world, and they live up to their promise.” Wyatt Miller ’16 adds, “Before Stuart led this case study, I had no clue that blindness due to this disease was such a problem in Africa. I think that the success of the program has greatly to do with the enormous amount of countries that it included and also the fact that the company Merck was kind enough to donate meds “to anyone who needed it, for as long as it was needed”. Large health interventions that encompass many countries seem to be more successful than smaller health interventions because the countries involved pressure each other to continue to participate. Also the fact that Merck was willing to donate so many meds was incredibly helpful. The tech breakthrough of discovering Mectizan and then the distribution of this drug to Africa averted many cases of blindness and many losses of DALYs.”

Bridget Dickinson ’16 led the group in exploring Treating Cataracts in India. Elizabeth Lilly ’16 commented, “This was one of the first diseases/health concerns that we’ve studied which is also seen stateside; of course, here, we don’t really see cataracts that often since they are surgically removed so quickly after they arise. What I found particularly fascinating about this case study is the Aravind Eye Hospital, and Dr. Venkataswamy‘s “franchise” approach. He does have a point: if one can buy the same quality burger from the same quality establishment from nearly any McDonald’s in the world (and there are many), why can the same not be true for adequate eye care? The hospital’s approach of asking those who can pay to provide for others’ surgeries seems to be working well, especially since the cost of a single surgery is a mere $10.”

Case Study - Dickinson - Cataracts

Brian Peccie ’16 taught the group about the highly contagious respiratory disease, measles, and looked at Eliminating Measles in Southern Africa. Wyatt Miller ’16 commented, “Brian’s case study on measles taught me a lot about the harmful and fatal effects of measles on children. What is most appalling about these deaths is that with a vaccine and a booster shot basically all of these deaths can be averted. Seven countries in Sub-Saharan Africa proved their ability to fight this disease after introducing a program which provided vaccines to children. This program caused an almost 100% drop in cases of measles and a 100% drop in death from measles. I believe that the huge success is due to the innovative ‘Catch Up, Keep Up, Follow Up’ program. This program made sure that all the countries not only caught up to the others in its distribution of vaccines but also continued to distribute them. The fact that there is a successful vaccine that can prevent children from getting measles also makes it much easier to fight the disease. Therefore the effective program along with the distribution of vaccines to southern Africa led to the enormous drop in measles cases and deaths.”

Case Study

Aneesh Dhawan ’16 explained the infectious disease tuberculosis to his peers and directed a look at Controlling Tuberculosis in China.

The Global Health Fellows ’16 were fortunate to spend a Sunday afternoon with Dr. Lisbet Hanson, who led the group through a Harvard Medical School case study, “Treating Malnutrition in Haiti with Read-to-Use Therapeutic Foods.” The group enjoyed returning to the context of Haiti and working again with the always inspiring and engaging Dr. Hanson.

Case Study - Hanson 2 - Nutrition

Case Study - Hanson - Nutrition

Case Study - Hanson 3 - Nutrition