As July comes to a close and August sneaks around the corner to surprise us, the fellows commenced their annual retreat when the ‘20s and ‘22s gathered in the gloomy, windowless room called Lyons at 8:30 in the morning and filled it with smiles and enthusiasm for the upcoming week. Dunkin donut holes and coffee fueled us through our tradition of the beach ball ice breaker where everyone got two chances to toss the beach ball covered with fun questions made by former fellow Gabi Diskin. Many interesting responses later, Sahib and I split the whole group in half and lead a discussion geared toward the ‘22s to help them get a sense for the vast field of Global Health as well as how it ties in with the work that we do in Belize. This activity was done in hopes of defining the term “global health” for themselves before we explained key global health concepts and terms in a presentation. However, before the long period of lecture, Mrs. Goodson asked the ‘22s to write a candid letter to themselves about their experience in Belize which is a longstanding tradition in this program. After the seniors and I had readied the powerpoint and the sophomores had handed in their letters, the long presentation began. To quote Mrs. Goodson, the process was best described as “taking a sip from a fire hydrant”. We began giving the youngest fellows much information to be absorbed, such as the difference between communicable and non-communicable diseases, important health determinants, and the global health trends of today. And because that wasn’t enough to take in already, we dived into an explanation of the six elements of success that we use to help guide our analysis of case studies. ‘22s, I promise that everything we presented to you today will sink in and soon enough, you’ll be spouting the terms you learned today as if it should be in anyone’s regular vocabulary.
After a short break where we restocked on energy through donuts and Oreos, I lead the second ice breaker of the day. The rules are a bit complicated so I’ll save you the confusion of trying to figure them out. However I will say I named it the Animal Name Game. Following this was a reading and discussion of a case study about HIV/AIDS prevention in Thailand lead by Laura. We broke out into small groups to read over the case and pick out the six elements of success in the outside air first before convening back in Lyons and holding a discussion about the important takeaways from this case. The ‘22s stepped up to offer their interesting insights and the ‘20s naturally steered the course of the conversation with. Soon after, Sahib and Connor stepped out to grab our Chick fil a lunch of the day. As the rest of us waited, we reflected on why we were Global Health fellows and our journey with the program so far. Each of us, even the ‘22s, presented our small pitches of reflection to the group in hopes of making sure everyone had an idea of what to say in the event that they were asked by a stranger. Next was lunch. The usual fun atmosphere migrated with us to the Oliver lounge as we ate chicken nuggets and welcomed the ‘21s who trickled in at 12:30.
A pause in narration: Sahib just relayed to me that my blog was quite lengthy so from now on I’ll try my best to leave out the details and cover the important activities of the day.
After lunch, Sahib lead a Random Fact guessing game. We learned that Anaiya has never broken a bone, Avery knows all of the US presidents by heart, and Sahib, the vegetarian may I remind you, likes the taste of pepperoni. Once the laughs had died down, the seniors and I held a formal debrief of this year’s trip to Belize. Every leader of each project had the chance to speak up about stressors and successes that they met on the ground and how they plan on moving forward. A seed of brainstorming was planted in all of us and this school year will serve as a tweaking time for our projects. Next was the book discussion for our summer reading book, Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. The seniors all came up with thought provoking questions prior to this day and the ‘21s and ‘22s split into groups and rotated through discussions with each senior. Personally, as the discusser, it was intriguing to see how responses would differ between groups. As a big fan of ethical questions, I posed many during my ten minutes with each group and the contrasting opinions shocked me. I guess that only proves how different we are from one another.
And the final event of the day was planning for the upcoming week. We were handed the case which we are using for the case competition and were informed of the simulation we would be put through tomorrow by the Duke Global Health Institute. We were all given a role which I know all of us are excited to play in a mock pandemic. Once the housekeeping things were taken care of, we all headed home to pack, read the case, or research our role. I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say that I am looking forward to spending my week with 17 other passionate students and 3 dedicated teachers.