Reflections on Work with LifeNet Health

The following post was written by Andrew Thetford, GHF ’19. Every ninth grader at Norfolk Academy is required to participate in some sort of community service on Wednesday afternoons in the fall. The GHF ’19s were lucky enough to have that experience tailored to their interest in and passion for health and wellbeing: they were invited to LifeNet Health to help expand youth outreach.

From the very beginning of our six week community service program at LifeNet Health, the Organ (and tissue) Procurement Agency for Virginia, we were introduced to the LifeNet Health slogan: Saving Lives.  Restoring Health.  Giving Hope.  The last part, “Giving Hope”, was recently added to emphasize the amazing, positive impact that organ and tissue donation has on recipients and their family.  The program that my cohort took part in served to educated us on organ and tissue donation and also to raise awareness about its importance.

From our first day there, where we toured the beautiful LifeNet Health facilities, to the last, where we gave a presentation to the executive board, we were constantly learning more and more about organ tissue and realizing just how important it was that we spread its message.  During our second and third sessions, we were introduced to the many myths and misconceptions people have about organ and tissue donation, and even met an employee who received a spine graft.  This meeting was particularly enlightening, as it opened up our minds to how something no bigger than a quarter could change a woman and her family’s lives forever.  Our fourth and fifth meetings were dedicated to coming up with a solution for the lack of awareness about organ and tissue donation, especially in the teenage generation.  Our proposed solution was to create a LifeNet Health Instagram account, featuring video clips, informational pictures, and a little something we came up with known as #MythMonday, where each Monday we post a picture with a common myth or little known fact. Followers then comment whether they think the myth or fact is truth or fiction.  We concluded our program with a presentation to the executive board, including CEO Rony Thomas.

The GHF '19s at their final presentation.

The GHF ’19s at their final presentation.

Before I came to LifeNet Health, I had really not thought about organ and tissue donation, and I know that this is the same for most of my classmates, and indeed my generation.  Maybe we learned about checking the box when we get our license, or had a casual conversation with our parents about it, but we had never seriously thought about it, certainly never stressed over what decision we are going to make when we get our license.  However, LifeNet Health has helped us to realize how much this needs to change.  Through the hands on programs we have taken part in the last six weeks, we have realized that the importance of organ and tissue donation should play a larger role for everyone, especially teenagers like us.  We can no longer allow the lack of knowledge about organ and tissue donation to grow unchecked.

Our six week program at LifeNet Health was an amazing, enlightening experience.  Each of us left LifeNet Health that last Wednesday disappointed that we could not stay for longer, but also excited, for the bright hopes that our social media solution holds.  We hope for continued success in all LifeNet Health operations, and would like to especially thank Ms. Franza, Neubauer, Bishop, and Mr. Rony Thomas for their effort, time, and thought that made our weeks there all that they were.

Month in Review: October

The Global Health Fellows had an especially busy and productive October, most of which was centered around the recently released Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

Outside of that topic, we had the good fortune to hear other perspectives on health, wellbeing, and the areas in which we’ve worked. On October 8th, several GHFs were invited by the Literacy Fellows Program to attend the concluding event of the 2015 ODU Literary Festival, where acclaimed Haitian novelist Edwidge Danticat delivered a profound address on the nature of her artistic craft and the state of the Haitian nation and Haitian people. The theme of the Literary Festival was “A Place to Stand,” adapted from the words of Archimedes: “Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth.” Ms. Danticat explored this theme in the thorough, thoughtful manner characteristic of a lifelong writer. Her talk made the GHFs present consider Archimedes’ quote in the context of our own work as Global Health Fellows. We feel fortunate to call Norfolk Academy our place to stand, and we are ever affirmed in our mission to move the earth by making its peoples happier and healthier.

After the Global Goals for Sustainable Development were announced at the end of September, each Fellow chose a goal on which to essentially become an expert. Fellows then created presentations about their chosen goals to share with the group.  Brian Peccie ’16 presented on Goal 11: Sustainable Cities & Communities, and discussed how road safety relates to public health. For example, the world’s most cost-effective global health intervention is not anything directly related to healthcare, but in fact the installation of speed bumps in areas of heavy road traffic. Helen Shaves ’17 presented on Goal 13: Climate Action and highlighted the success that Brazil has seen in reducing deforestation. James Hood ’19 bore the significant burden of presenting on the most ambitious of the goals, Goal 1: Eliminate Poverty in All its Forms. He noted that Goal 1 offers especially open pathways to overlap with other goals, and that many interventions addressing poverty will also, by their very nature, help achieve more of the targets laid out by the United Nations. James also shared examples of particularly successful projects, such as a livelihood campaign in Colombia and infrastructure expansion in Mauritania, created by the United Nations Development Program to reduce poverty.

GHFs listen to a presentation on Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

GHFs listen to a presentation on Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

The GHFs are becoming experts on the Global Goals in preparation for the first-ever Global Health Day, an all-day, secondary school-wide, Fellow-designed seminar devoted to teaching Norfolk Academy students about global health and development. The Fellows have decided to structure the day’s schedule around the Global Goals, of which only one is strictly devoted to medicine, in order to show the wide-reaching consequences and effects of good health on a society — and, in turn, the importance of ensuring sound quality of an and access to care for the world’s underserved populations. (Global Health Day will be on April 4, 2016 — mark your calendars!)

In a new project for this year, each Fellow also wrote a short op-ed on a global health or development topic that was of interest to them. We will be publishing the best of those on this blog in the next week or two. Stay tuned! Also still to come: GHF ’19 Andrew Thetford’s reflections on his class’s community service opportunity at LifeNet Health.