All-GHF Retreat (August 11-15, 2015)

Written by Elizabeth Lilly, GHF Class of 2016

The seniors kicking off the all-GHF Retreat.

After a Tuesday afternoon meeting at which the Class of 2019 Fellows were acclimated to the world of global health, our retreat began in earnest on Wednesday, August 12. We spent the morning reviewing key terms (which was just as useful for the yozungest fellows as it was for the oldest) and discussing case studies,which dealt variously with diarrheal disease in Egypt, iodine deficiency in China, and tobacco use in Poland. We concluded our morning program with a discussion about our summer reading book, Better by Dr. Atul Gawande, that quickly swelled into a passionate debate – and was unfortunately cut off at lunchtime.

Youngest cohort discussing "Mountains Beyond Mountains"

Youngest cohort discussing “Mountains Beyond Mountains”

After lunch, the group parted ways: Mr. Boland and some of the younger Fellows were off to the Western Tidewater Free Clinic in Suffolk, where they experienced health issues that, immersed in readings about sub-Saharan Africa and Haiti, plague citizens of our local communities as well. Mrs. Hall accompanied the other half of the group to LifeNet Health – in other words, the new frontier of medicine. LifeNet Health is a tissue bank and organ procurement facility that also includes a newly-christened Institute of Regenerative Medicine, where some of the world’s most promising minds have come to work and research. Jean Neubauer, Senior Director

Jean Neubauer taking us on a tour of LifeNet Health.

Jean Neubauer taking us on a tour of LifeNet Health.

BioSciences Learning Center, gave us a tour of the facility, including a fascinating glimpse into the physical process of procuring organs. We were amazed, to say the least, that such an extraordinary community of bright minds and new ideas existed and was growing right in our own backyard. In short, our afternoon excursions shed new light on the past, present, and future of healthcare in Hampton Roads.


Visiting the processing wing at LifeNet Health.

Visiting the processing wing at LifeNet Health.

On Thursday, after plunging back into the world of global health after a long summer, we headed to Charlottesville, where we were welcomed by the Center for Global Health at the University of Virginia. First, three students – one from the College and two from the School of Medicine – spoke passionately about their summer experiences coordinated through the Center for Global Health. Said experiences occurred both in the lab and in the field, incorporating other strains of global health such as psychology and anthropology.
Dr. Rebecca Dillingham, Director of the Center for Global Health at UVa, addressing the NA Global Health Fellows.

Dr. Rebecca Dillingham, Director of the Center for Global Health at UVa, addressing the NA Global Health Fellows.

After the UVA students’ presentations, the Norfolk Academy students were split into four teams and charged with the task of solving one of the manifold problems presented in a case study about the Syrian refugee crisis. The case had been presented in a similar context at the 2014 UVA Global Health Case Competition, an annual event that brings together students, both graduate and undergraduate, from across the many schools and disciplines at the University. In that competition, teams are asked to provide a holistic, comprehensive solution that addresses almost all major issues in all countries. However, as we were only given an hour to brainstorm, research, and formulate a presentation, we were asked to focus our efforts on one problem in one country.


Dr. Dillingham provides counsel during the case competition.

This was still, however, quite a task! After an hour of careful, deliberate work, the four groups presented their solutions to Claire Constance and Colleen Laurence, the latter of whom was kind enough to Skype in. The feedback we received was both useful and encouraging, and helped to point out logical flaws or holes in our arguments.
After an exhausting (but only in the best way!) afternoon, we returned to the Kaufmans’ lovely property, Rodes Farm, which is perched among the rolling green of the Blue Ridge foothills. There we reflected on the day, shared a delicious dinner, and finally finished our book discussion. We also began to brainstorm ideas for Global Health Day, our marquee event of the year (April 4 – mark your calendars!).

Brainstorming session at Rodes Farm.

On Friday morning, we began with a session wherein we crafted our “elevator pitch” – that is, a concise, compact explanation of what our program is and does. It proved helpful later in the day, when we met with two men involved in the development and commercialization of MadiDrop, a water purification device with extraordinary potential. The more science-minded half of the group met with Dr. James Smith, a professor at the Engineering School at UVA who has worked on ceramic water purification technology for ten years. Dr. Smith explained the chemistry behind the MadiDrop and was kind enough to give the students a tour of his lab. The business-minded half of the group talked to Mr. David Dusseau, the CEO of MadiDrop, PBC. Mr. Dusseau’s company is working to commercialize the MadiDrop, starting in South Africa, where the PureMadi initiative at UVA has already established partnerships and

Meeting with David Dusseau of MadiDrop

Meeting with David Dusseau of MadiDrop

credibility. He explained what is unique about a PBC, or public benefit corporation, which is a very new business model that falls between a typical for-profit corporation and a nonprofit. After our separate discussions, the whole group reconvened to share reflections. It was a morning at once inspiring and informative, and it left us feeling very excited about the potential of this technology.

In the afternoon, we headed to the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, where we were warmly greeted by Ms. Kellie Sauls, the Dean of Admission. Ms. Sauls gave us a lunchtime talk about that vast, hazy unknown that is the future, and reminded us that it’s not as far away as it may seem. We underwent the familiar exercise of writing letters to ourselves, in which this time we were asked to envision our lives as they might IMG_0906appear in thirty years or so. While we were still in this introspective mood, we shifted to a new activity, which the 16s had done on their trip to Charlottesville in January 2014. Called the Change Style Indicator, it assesses participants’ attitudes about change. On one end of the spectrum are conservers, who are inclined to honor tradition and go by the book; on the other end are originators, who think broadly and with new ideas. In the middle are the pragmatists, who often serve as intermediaries between the two extremes. After we had all done the self-assessment, we separated into three groups based on our results and discussed our strengths and weaknesses. Ms. Sauls then led us in a group discussion about real-life implications and advice for conservers, pragmatists, and originators. To conclude the afternoon, two students at the Batten School, an MPP candidate and an undergraduate student, spoke to the group about their summer experiences and life paths. Their talks gave us a glimpse into the many forms that public service can take.
With the Director of Admissions, Kellie Sauls, in front of the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy

With the Dean of Admissions, Kellie Sauls, in front of the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia

That night, the four classes engaged in a lip-sync battle that some, frankly, took more seriously than others. The 19s impressed with a dramatic rendition of the Internet classic “Shia LaBeouf.” The 18s, in keeping with the Disney theme they established at the dance-off in Haiti, went with “Under the Sea,” which dazzled with costumes and sets but disappointed with choreography and acting. The 17s performed a strikingly minimalistic version of “Blank Space,” and the Taylor Swift theme continued with the highlight of the night, the 16s’ excellently choreographed and produced “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” In a shocking upset, the 19s were crowned champions by judges Mrs. Hall and Mr. Boland, and were given the privilege of roasting the first marshmallows in the s’mores portion of the evening.
Everyone except the 16s went to bed that night under the expectation that we’d be leaving close to 8 o’clock in the morning. But at 5 o’clock the next morning, the seniors woke everyone up for a sunrise hike at Humpback Rock. So in the dim, pinkish glow of early morning, the Global Health Fellows climbed a mountain, only to see at the top yet more mountains – mountains beyond mountains, in fact.
The Global Health Fellows at the top of Humpback Rocks at sunrise.

The Global Health Fellows at the top of Humpback Rocks at sunrise.

After returning to the farm, we brought the retreat to a ceremonial close with the usual letter to ourselves and a group sharing activity, wherein each person complimented someone else and passed a ball of yarn to the recipient of that complement, and so on and so on, until a tight web of connection and support had formed in the middle. It was a fitting image by which to end the retreat. No one cohort dominated the few days we spent together; each and every Fellow had a moment or more of bright, thoughtful insight or inspired leadership. Needless to say, we are very excited to see what this first year of a fully subscribed program will bring!

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