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Looking Back to 2015, Ahead to 2016

In the absence of a “Month(s) in Review” post for November and December, which saw mostly research and exam preparation for the Global Health Fellows, here’s a look at the year 2015, plus some hopes and predictions for the coming year.

2015 might have been the most eventful year yet for the Global Health Fellows program. In the spring, we welcomed the Class of 2019, the fourth cohort inducted into the program. The summer months saw the 16s and 18s travel together to Haiti, where they worked to implement an array of development, health, and sanitation projects. The 17s, on the other hand, traveled north to Washington for a look at the policy-based side of global health.

Arguably the highlight of the summer, however, was our first all-Fellows retreat, which took place in August. Fellows from all four classes convened at Norfolk Academy, from whence they set out to explore healthcare and health research around Hampton Roads. A trip to Charlottesville, where GHFs were warmly received by the UVa Center for Global Health, the Frank Batten School for Leadership and Public Policy, Mr. David Dusseau of MadiDrop, and Dr. James Smith of the UVa School of Engineering and Applied Science, followed shortly thereafter.

When we returned to school, we quickly jumped into preparations for our first-ever Global Health Day, which will be structured around the recently-released Global Goals for Sustainable Development and serve to educate and inspire our classmates and teachers. In preparation for that event, each Fellow chose one of the Global Goals to research and present to his/her colleagues. Presentations dominated our schedule in the fall and just recently concluded.

The following year promises to be equally — if not even more! — eventful and exciting. Global Health Day is scheduled for April 4, and will see the Fellows working in collaboration with Norfolk Academy students of all backgrounds and interests to create the most engaging, exciting day possible.

At the 5th annual Center for Civic and Global Leadership symposium in May, four classes of Fellows will be presenting on their work and research. Sometime later this spring, the program will send its next delegation to Haiti. Plans for the trip remain tentative given recent turmoil surrounding the Haitian presidential election. The 19s, who have not yet had the opportunity to experience the global health and issues they’ve studied firsthand, remain very excited about the prospect of traveling to Haiti and forming the deep, lasting human connections about which they’ve heard so much from their peers.

And in June, the inaugural cohort of Global Health Fellows – the Class of 2016 – will graduate from Norfolk Academy! We are all looking forward to spending the upcoming semester and preparing to pass the baton to the Class of 2017. Needless to say, we are not looking forward to leaving the school and program that have nurtured and encouraged our intellectual passions, pursuits, and visions. But we know that our work in global health, development, and progress will not end with our careers at Norfolk Academy!

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.