GHF Travels Tobacco Road to UNC!

Submitted by Ingrid Benkovitz (Class of 2019)

Jon Todd (NA ’99) moderates a panel of UNC graduate students

After an early rise on Friday, we embarked to the University of North Carolina, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Jonathan Todd, from the Gillings School of Public Health (and an NA alumus!), put together an incredible morning of intellectual, thought-provoking speakers in the field of Epidemiology.  

We first heard from Anna Bauer about her research on Preeclampsia, a fairly common pregnancy complication. The presentation was filled with data that was very helpful in understanding her talk. Next, Christine Gray spoke to us about her research on trauma and abuse among orphans and how the statistics may differ depending on if the children are raised in an institution or a family setting. This conclusive study was able to give us a greater knowledge of the procedure of collecting data in an ethical way and comprehending what it means. Alex Breskin then showed us his research on the Hepatitis C Virus, a virus that was considered non-curable until recently. He was able to emphasize and open our eyes up to the extremity of a somewhat overlooked disease. Jonathan Todd, our last speaker, explained his research about how different doses of statins affect incidence of cardiovascular disease. His presentation was beyond impressive; Norfolk Academy should be proud!!

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NA GHF pose with our UNC panel at the Gillings School of Public Health

While all the speakers specialized in different topics, they all had one thing in common: a truly inspiring passion for what they do. Following these presentations, we were lucky enough to have a panel of more students and workers in the field of Epidemiology. With such an intriguing field, the number of questions we had seemed unending, but sadly, the morning did have to come to an end.

In the afternoon, Fellows traveled to the UNC Challenge Course to grow as a team and to push their physical limits!  The following reflection of the challenge course is from Andrew Thetford (Class of 2017).

After our morning session at UNC and a working lunch on Franklin Street to finish discussion of our case study, the GHFs headed to the University of North Carolina’s challenge course.  This was much different than a lot of us expected.  I assumed we would be on something like the Adventure Park at our local aquarium, but it was much different.  Most of our time was spent on the “Low Ropes Course”, which consisted mainly of team building exercises.  We started off with an icebreaker game, then transitioned quickly to a version of the game “Concentration”.  Each set of cards in the game had an important characteristic necessary to working well as a team.  Appreciating diversity, equality, hard work, and others were all flipped over after several tries by each fellow.

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Gabi Diskin (Class of ’18) explains key components of working as a team

 After completing the first game, we were challenged to pick three of the many traits to become our focus for the day.  Following much deliberating, we decided on focus, positive attitude, and teamwork because they seemed to cover most of the other traits as well.  

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Justine Kaskel (Class of ’17) slows the “water” as it flows downhill

Then, we moved on to a more physical and mentally grueling obstacle.  We had to use cut PVC pipes to move a golf ball down a hill and into a tiny bucket.  This required us to wait for the golf ball to move past our PVC pipe, then quickly transition to the back of the line.  It went on like that for a few rotations, with the first person in line continually moving down the hill and towards the back of the line.  However, it wasn’t as easy as it sounds.  If the ball dropped, we had to walk back up the hill to the starting line and repeat, and we dropped the ball A LOT!  It took 45 minutes of a lot of leadership from the ‘17s and others and a bit of yelling from everyone to finally get the ball into the bucket that was no more than 20 yards away.  

After each activity, we would sit down and talk about what we did and how we could have done better with each other.  We also tried to relate everything back to the three traits we chose at the beginning: focus, positive attitude, and teamwork.  Next, we were instructed to pick our favorite quadrilateral (the group consensus was a trapezoid) and we moved into the shade.  We formed a big circle, donned blindfolds, and were told to take the pile of rope in the center of the circle and form a trapezoid with it, all while wearing blindfolds.  This also took a lot of leadership and talking over one another to succeed, but we made it happen rather quickly.  

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Ryan Fulmer  (’17) helps Ray Fitzgerald (’19) cross the spider web

After another discussion, we walked into the woods a bit towards “The Spider Web”.  This was a bunch of strings strung randomly across a big wooden frame built to resemble a huge spider web with large, different sized holes in it.  Our challenge was to get everyone from one side of the spider web to the other, without touching the web.  This required us to carefully carry people through each hole.  However, there was a catch.  We could only use each hole twice, so we had to strategize who to put in each hole based on weight and size.  This challenge required a lot of brawn as well as brains, so it took a lot of teamwork to lift one fellow up, pass him or her slowly through a hole several feet across, and transport them into the waiting arms of GHFs on the other side, all without touching the strings.  Oh, and there was a time limit!  The time limit really compressed the amount of time strategizing.  We ended up having to put some of the biggest fellows, like Graham Barbour ‘17, into one of the smallest and most awkward holes.  After this challenge, we talked about what we did well and what we could’ve done better for a little bit, then we walked down to the zipline.

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Climbing to the top!

The zipline is the largest in the Southeast, and sat atop a wooden platform 100+ feet off the ground, connected only by a huge net.  In order to go on the zipline, one had to climb all the way up the net before strapping in and jumping.  After everyone had ridden the zipline, we finished our day with one last reflective activity where everyone picked card with a picture on it, then described how the picture represented some aspect of our day.  While there were the deep, classic people like James Hood ‘19 who said his picture of a road and a far off house represented the challenges we had to face to succeed, there were around seven blunter people who picked pictures of the sun because it was very hot and very muggy outside.

Although it was hot, sweaty, and difficult, I think we as a program finished with a lot of takeaways.  We had picked three core values that are necessary to accomplishing our goals, we had completed every challenge, and we had admitted to our faults and come up with alternative, better ideas after doing so.  We had grown together as a team, and everyone gained valuable experience as both leaders and followers, not to mention the workout everyone got from carrying each other around in the heat.  The Challenge Course was a lot of fun and a great addition to our time at Duke and UNC.

GHF Visit Experts at Duke University

Submitted by Lawson Montgomery ’18

After a great lunch with Dr. Robert Malkin of Duke’s Global Health Institute, we ventured to the Duke Clinical Research Institute and began on a discussion about research ethics from Dr. Ross McKinney. This was very interesting as it gave us the history of ethical issues in clinical research and a deeper understanding on how to conduct a true clinical study. Next, we listened to Dr. Danny Benjamin and his clinical research on different dosages and how they correspond to developmental ages of infants and children. After these two speakers, we had a panel that was composed of Erin Wolfe, Caitlin Grennan, Julia Giner, and Tiffany Bell. All were involved with Duke and all shared their personal paths to Clinical Research and Duke. We then asked questions about a variety of topics which included sickle cell disease and microbiology to mention a few. This panel helped show us that there are a multitude of paths that can be taken in the medical and clinical fields. We want to thank our speakers and panelists for the time they took out of their days. We would also like to thank Dr. Vivian Chu, moderator of panel and specialist in infectious disease, and Amanda McMillan. They were the women responsible for this awesome afternoon of speakers and panelists.

20’s Discuss Their Summer Reading

Submitted by Julia Duarte, GHF ’20

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Seniors Ryan and Justin (’17) lead a discussion on “Diligence”

On a Tuesday afternoon, after the Class of 2020 Fellows were introduced to basic Global Health terms and to their new senior mentors at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Brock Environmental Center, we split up into different groups to discuss our summer reading book, Better, a surgeon’s notes on performance. Author Atul Gawande focused on three main themes: Diligence, Doing Right, and Ingenuity. By telling short stories that enlighten readers about health in a community and on a global scale, Gawande’s writing style intrigued and captivated all of the fellows. Some of the topics discussed included the importance of washing hands, the steps to eradicating polio, the complications of human birth, and many more. The seniors led the new fellows through a discussion about each of book’s themes, asking frequent thought-provoking discussion questions. Some of the questions being discussed included “Do you support or oppose the involvement of physicians in death penalty executions?” and “Do you feel that doctors should always follow the rule book or step away from it when coming across a problem they have never dealt with before?”. These two questions and many more helped steer discussions between the ‘17s and the ‘20s fellows. After reviewing and discussing each theme with different seniors, I came to the conclusion that Gawande had a deeper message behind his book. Not only do these series of stories teach us about medicine; but they also explain how to deal with failure and grow from it. That will determine your character, even if you are not a doctor. Every fellow should keep this lesson in mind as they begin a new year with new challenges.

GHF 2020: Intake!

Submitted by Laura Read, GHF ’20

The first day of the 2016 Global Health Fellows retreat began on a sultry Tuesday afternoon in the Brock Environmental Center, a building with towering silver wind turbines and metallic solar panels that produces 83% more energy than it uses. Inside the one of the world’s greenest buildings, the senior (GHF ’17s) and freshmen (GHF ’20s) fellows interviewed each other on the fastest rolling chairs known to mankind. After we got to know everyone, we began our discussions about what this is all about – how we’re going to make the world a better place through community health and prosperity.

Infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases, and population-based challenges are just a few of the topics we covered. We learned about the difference between morbidity and mortality and the problems each class of country face with them, and why some issues may be more prevalent than others depending on living conditions. Quality of life and life expectancy were also discussed, and the effect illness takes on it (Disability-Adjusted Life Years). The seniors also showed us informational videos on the topics, including one that covered the span of two hundred years on life expectancy versus income.

Global Health 101, led by the seniors to teach the incoming freshmen class of fellows

Global Health 101, led by the seniors to teach the incoming freshmen class of fellows

After a couple hours of taking notes and learning, we took a stretch break (Mrs. Hall provided earth-shaped cake pops, which were excellent) and headed outside on the deck to play a game. We ordered ourselves numbers one through ten, but we couldn’t talk, and we were blindfolded. The ice was broken, to say the least.

Teambuilding exercise on the porch of the Brock Environmental Center

Teambuilding exercise on the porch of the Brock Environmental Center

Following the game we broke off into small groups to talk about our summer reading book, Better by Atul Gawande, a surgeon’s notes on performance. It was split into three sections, called Diligence, Doing Right, and Ingenuity. We discussed with the seniors the many subjects covered in the book, which included washing hands in hospitals,

Discussing Atul Gawande's book "Better"

Discussing Atul Gawande’s book “Better”

malpractice suits, doctors’ wages, the death penalty, human birth, eradicating polio, and many more. Ethics and responsibility were brought into the conversation.

Then we began talking about needs assessments while working in the field. A needs assessment involves community members in a project, are used to earn respect and support, and help determine the most pressing needs of the community. We also discussed how monitoring and evaluation are essential while working on field projects.

At 4:30, we concluded our first retreat day. I’m definitely looking forward to the rest of the week!

The GHF '17s and '19s kick off the 2016 all-GHF Retreat!

The GHF ’17s and ’19s kick off the 2016 all-GHF Retreat!