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.
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.
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,
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!