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Last Day on the Eastern Shore: August 7, 2021

Written by Julianne Hood ’22

Today was our last day on the Eastern Shore for our 2021 Global Health Fellows retreat. After most of us were working on our case competitions late into the night, we woke up groggy, packed up, and headed to the Life Center of the Bay Creek Resort. There we placed the finishing touches of our case competitions. Then we headed straight into the final presentations in front of peers and to be judged by our three judges: Carter Furr, Mrs. Hall, and Ms. Sarah DeCamp. The goal of the case competition was to create a six month emergency plan and twelve month long term plan in order to improve the mental health of health care workers in Dougherty County, Georgia with a $750,000 grant. The first group; consisting of Abby Fernandez, Jen Yuan, Liam Sullivan, and Sophie Pollio; created a six month emergency plan of providing a year’s supply of personal protective equipment to Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, posters and emails with online resources, workshops to address mental health stigmas, “Wellness Wednesday” mindfulness workshops, and surveys for hospital staff. Their twelve month plan included more hospital wide workshops with plans to continue annually, a continuation of “Wellness Wednesday”, and a final survey. Group two’s members; Avery Britt, Ben Roberts, Ryan Guzik, and Gretchen Scott; created a six month intervention consisting of a survey to assess the mental health of health care workers, cognitive behavioral therapy, and medications. Their long term plan included a class for incoming hospital staff by partnering with Norfolk’s very own Chas Foundation in order to recognize mental health issues, teaching mindfulness, and improving the hospital environment for those with PTSD. The third group to present included myself, Saoirse Dowd, Jenny Vazquez Paramo, Van Deans, and Varish Sappati. In our six month intervention we applied WHO’s Self Help Plus Program, Northampton Children Hospital’s reflective groups, and Telemedicine. On our twelve month intervention we created an app with resources, a local ad campaign to gather community support, and incorporated local surgeon, Dr. Valliere-White to destigmatize health care workers asking for mental health support. The final group made up of Mariana Duarte, Gavin Goss, Bella Burr, Joe Bakkar, and Shelby Beverly created a six month intervention including the use of therapy dogs, yoga, and relaxing essential oils. Their twelve month plan consisted of the use of the app TalkSpace, a COVID vaccine incentive campaign, and supplying more beds to a nearby hospital. This comes as no surprise, but group three won!

To finish the day, we wrote thank you letters to all of the amazing people and organizations that so generously donated their time in order to help us learn more about the Eastern Shore. We then wrote ourselves letters to our future selves about what we have learned about ourselves from the trip and to self reflect. We then boarded the bus, and our fantastic driver, Mr. Roy Newman, drove us back to Norfolk Academy safely. I’d like to end this blog post by thanking Mrs. Hall, Mr. Wetmore, Carter Furr, and the Batten Leadership Program for giving us this opportunity and planning this trip. I would also like to give thanks on behalf of the program to Ms. Sarah DeCamps and Mr. Bryan Gomes from the World Leadership School for their immeasurable contribution. Most of all, I’d like to express how amazing it was to get to know everyone better and how I cannot wait for another amazing year of global health!

Day Three on the Eastern Shore: FoodHub and ESRH

Written by Avery Britt ’22

The Global Health Fellows had an extremely productive and fun last full day. We started our morning driving to the foodbank hub where we would alternate our time between checking onions for soft spots and mold and assisting the customers as they shopped for their food. My day started in the kitchen with the onions, checking their viability so that we could set them out for the people at the food hub. Our group may have started out a bit rocky (confused by what classified a “good or bad” onion), but once we were told to peel off the first layer of the vegetable in order to see its potential mold spots, the whole group sped through our large bags of onions. We even found what we deemed to be the “perfect” onion. Precisely onion-shaped, without a single bruise, and glaring white, it outshone all the rest of the onions by miles. However, our fun with onions had to be cut short in favor of a much better time helping the people at the foodbank hub fill up their grocery bags or boxes! I got the chance to talk with so many interesting people by lending them my hand to carry their groceries. One of the coordinators even said that the box I was helping carry would go to a woman in labor with her 13th child!

After the foodbank, we headed to lunch in Eastville, where we got the chance to eat adjacent to one of the walking sites set out by Eastern Shore Healthy Communities. Our next stop wasn’t too far away from our luncheon. We drove to Eastern Shore Rural Health’s Eastville Community Health Center and received a tour from two doctors and a coordinator there. Honestly, I had never seen such a centralized hub for medicine before. They had offices for family practice, dentistry, pharmacy, and more all under one roof! I wish I had something like this near my house so my dentist and doctor wouldn’t be 20 minutes apart. 

As our time with Eastern Shore Rural Health concluded, so did our interaction with new organizations on the Eastern Shore. I hope we can keep in contact with all the great programs that we have seen on the Shore, and hopefully they’ll become integral parts of the greater network of Norfolk Academy community connections.

Now, our free time! Roy very kindly drove us to the beach to spend our last sunny day enjoying the warm water, playing spike ball (a game at which this blogger far from excels), and soccer. The ‘23s and the ‘24s stayed there for almost two hours, but we ‘22s had to return to our condos to get ready for a grilling extravaganza! Via a concerted effort, the ‘22s cooked burgers, veggie burgers, and hot dogs for all of the fellows (there never was a tastier burger). 

Post- dinner the group divided into our case competition groups for our last time before we present our pitch to win the competition. By the time we finished with the case, our adult leaders had kindly prepared us some s’mores to cap off the day! Following the delicious s’mores, the group sat down to debrief with ANCHOR (Appreciations; News; Concerns; Highlights and Hopes; Observations; Reflections). We ended with a candle circle during which each of us shared what we learned this week (about ourselves, about global health, about the Shore) that we will take with us into this upcoming year. As today was his last day with us, Bryan handed out all of the World Leadership School t-shirts to us commemorating our time with him on the Eastern Shore. 

It was the perfect cap to the perfect week, and I am so grateful to have gotten the opportunity to spend these five days with some of the greatest people in the world! 

Day Three on the Eastern Shore of Virginia

Today, we spent the morning learning about the East Coast Migrant Head Start program, which teaches the children (aged 6 weeks to 5 years) of seasonal and migrant agricultural workers in the region. Beyond just providing care and education for the kids, they help support the entire family through a variety of services. Nearly every Global Health Fellow got to spend some time playing with the kids on their playground. In my case, Liam Sullivan and I played soccer with an awesome kid, though unfortunately we couldn’t get him to tell us his name. Jen and Abby raced a few of the girls on their tricycles, and Varish turned into a lego head while building with a few kids. It was really interesting to learn how much their enrollment has shifted on the Shore over the past several years, as the migrant farmer population has decreased due to immigration policy, and just the men are coming now instead of bringing their entire families. Transportation is also a huge issue for the families, as it seems to be highlighted as a top issue on the Shore in nearly every conversation we have had with organizations this week.

After our time with the Head Start Project, we visited a local plant nursery, where they manage over 200 acres of farmland. We toured the property on the bus, and asked one of the workers about the conditions regarding migrant workers. In the nursery’s case, a large portion of their employees stayed for several years due to the good pay.

After this, we drove up to Onancock to kayak on Onancock Creek for the afternoon with Bill and Mary Burnham of Burnham Guides. We kayaked for a few hours, two people per kayak. I was yet again with Liam, and we led the pack. The guides were fantastic, and told us about the state of the watershed, including how invasive plant species are catalyzing shoreline erosion. It was an absolutely beautiful afternoon and a fun way to see the natural beauty of the Shore.

We went to dinner nearby, where we wished a very happy birthday to our amazing bus driver, Roy Newton. After we got home to Cape Charles for the evening, we worked in our case competition groups – coupling case comp work with a bake-off. Each case comp group brought a baked good creation to our evening ANCHOR reflection session, and they were judged by appearance and taste. The lemon bars with strawberry flowers took the appearance category, while the classic brownies won the taste competition. Our leaders of the day, Gavin and Julianne, shared their personal stories about why they became Global Health Fellows and why the program has been important to them. 

Day Two on the Eastern Shore (August 4, 2021)

Written by Avery Britt ’22

Ah the rain… normally synonymous with groggy and sad moods, our Global Health Fellows persisted in spite of the weather conditions. We started our day riding on the bus to Onancock, heading to the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore and No Limits Eastern Shore. The bus ride was full of plenty of fun games and program bonding, including Contact, a word-guessing game. Arriving at the Foodbank, we were met with what else but rain! A downpour soaked our bags and shirts as we hurried into the warehouse. When we got into the foodbank, we got a brief introduction to all that the organization offers. They serve about 13,000 of the 68,000 people on the Eastern Shore, which while a sobering reminder that many people on the Eastern Shore are food insecure, it was also heartening to know that the foodbank has the reach to care for all these citizens. After our intro, our group split into two for the first time. With half of us heading to No Limits next door and the other half staying at the Foodbank warehouse, we began our journey to discover what these organizations bring to the Eastern Shore community.

Personally, my group stayed at the foodbank during the first rotation. We continued our game of contact from the bus to fill the quiet that we had as we packed grocery bags full of fresh potatoes. We probably got through at least 100 pounds of potatoes, but we didn’t stop there! After we had finished packing this starchy vegetable, we moved on to its leafy green brethren. Although it’s hard to measure greens in weight, my group of six bagged about half as many greens as potatoes. The work of the six people stationed at the food bagging section seemed to surprise all of us because we completed our bagging job pretty quickly. My group of six then merged with the other group working with sorting through expired food. The fellows sorted through carts full of potentially expired food, getting to put a lot of it back on the shelf to be enjoyed by a family, but also unfortunately having to throw too much of it away because it passed its date. But we completed that job just as quickly as the bagging job! So, the fellows moved on to a different type of bagging. The entire group at the foodbank (group one was we were demarcated) formed a Ford Automotive-esque assembly line to pack to-go bags full of different items. My portion of the assembly line included adding peaches to the bag that would eventually be rolled up and placed into two big, empty containers, which we filled up!

The foodbank was a wonderful experience, but we had to switch out so that the other group could have their chance. But before we had the opportunity to experience No Limits, we ate a tasty packed lunch in a screened-in porch adjacent to a chicken coop—a coop which we later found out belonged to the No Limits team. No Limits is an organization which provides activities for clients with traumatic brain injuries to improve and maintain the parts of the brain responsible for cognition, attention, memory, movement, and communication. They also provide information and referral services for brain injury survivors. At their center, the Global Health Fellows got to play a few rounds of cornhole with the guests before talking about the ways teenagers can prevent traumatic brain injury. Even though my team lost the cornhole, due to an 11th hour comeback from our counselor, Sarah, the game was definitely a highlight of the day and probably even the entire trip. 

Post-No Limits, the group returned to the bus, where we continued with our game play. Specifically this time we chose to spend our bus time playing with the people in our cohort (grade level). That 45 minute bus ride flies by when you’re playing a great game! 

Upon our return to the condos, we went right into a quick walk to the beach where we enjoyed various spike ball and soccer games. The walk to and return from the beach featured a lot of great conversations had by everyone in the GHF Program. We all then had a delicious dinner of tacos cooked by our 23s and 24s. After the dinner, we had more time to work in our case competition groups with all of us coming up with pretty great ideas to help healthcare workers in Dougherty county with mental health during and post-pandemic. 

We ended the day with a debrief and reflection led by our leaders of the day, Mariana ‘22 and Gavin ‘22. All in all, it was a great day despite the icky weather. And, we hope that tomorrow will bring more fun, adventure, and (hopefully) sunshine. 

Global Health Fellows head to the Eastern Shore

Written by Jen Yuan ’23

The Global Health Fellows’ summer experience kicked off on Monday, August 2, as all the GHFs gathered on the NA campus for a day of learning and team bonding, orchestrated and led entirely by the senior cohort. We played some fun Olympic-themed icebreakers, had a Global Health 101 crash course, during which we learned some important global health jargon and concepts (mortality vs. morbidity; equality vs. equity; efficacy vs. effectiveness, for example), had a COVID update on the Delta variant and engaged in an interesting discussion about next steps in the vaccination rollout, and prepped for our upcoming week on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. It was so incredible to gather together, all 18 Global Health Fellows, to prep for our first time off-campus together since COVID hit. It was a memorable day. 

Tuesday morning, we loaded up the NA bus and headed out to the Eastern Shore. Although we aren’t going abroad to places like Belize, heading up to the Eastern Shore to apply our classroom knowledge and bond more with our fellows is pretty exciting.

Our first destination was the Barrier Islands Center, home to around 7500 artifacts from the Barrier Islands off of Virginia’s coast. There, we met up with counselors from the World Leadership School, Bryan and Sarah. They led us first through some team bonding exercises outside on the fields: values/fears, what we hope to get out of this week, and general introductions. My favorite activities were the “Marshmallow” activity and the Helium stick. It took us a few tries to make it over the “river” in the first activity, but we learned how to better communicate at the end of it. The Helium Stick was… a tougher challenge. I swear that none of us were lifting the stick up, but that thing just kept rising towards the sky (and also sideways). With some great senior leadership and a lot more struggling, we did manage to lower the Helium Stick to the ground. It was VERY entertaining.
Overall, the morning was a great bonding experience for all of us!

When we finished lunch, we headed into the BIC. Sally Dickinson, executive director of the BIC, gave us a tour and background of the barrier islands. We watched a short documentary called “Our Island Home,” in which three former residents of the barrier islands talk about their lives. It was heartbreaking to hear that their culture and way of life are completely gone now. 

After the documentary, we were set loose to explore the house and the exhibits. My favorite area of the house was the room that housed the duck decoys made by Mr. Cobbs. The woodworking was so beautiful and it’s shocking (but not unbelievable) that these decoys go for up to $400k now. 

After the tour of the BIC, we headed into the almshouse behind the main building to meet with Patti Kiger, executive director of the Eastern Shore Healthy Communities coalition. She talked a little about what the ESHC does and how they were originally focused on reducing obesity on the Eastern Shore, specifically in Northampton and Accomack counties of the lower Shore. My favorite part of our meeting was when she discussed ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and how childhood traumas can play a part in future health issues. It had never occurred to me that some chronic illnesses can be caused by childhood trauma. 

When we wrapped up our conversation with Mrs. Kiger, we finally headed to our condos at Bay Creek near Cape Charles. The houses are really, really nice, and we have tons of food and snacks! 
After getting settled, everyone headed over to one of the boys’ condos, which will be serving as our “meeting area.” Sarah and Bryan led us through an activity called AMP (Analyze Manage Prepare). We were broken up into a few teams and identified possible risks in our condos, work sites, pools, etc. 

When we finished the AMP activity, we took a short break to eat dinner- pizza!

This week, the Global Health Fellows are broken into 4 Olympic teams to work on a case competition: Pandemic PTSD: Addressing the Mental Health Crisis of Health Care Workers in the Time of COVID-19. Each group will present their solution and proposed budget on Saturday morning, and a winner of the case comp will be determined. This evening, we had the first chance to work together in our teams. My group, comprised of Abby, Liam, Sophie, and I, did pretty well- we did some solid initial research and had some great ideas. I don’t know who will be blogging on the day we present, but lookout for a team called Patty and Co. We’re going to crush the competition. 

Everyone then gathered outside to debrief the day. We wrapped up at around 9:20, so we had until 10:30 to chill. I played scrabble with the ’23 and ’24 girls, while others played other games.
Overall, today was a great first day. Looking forward to the week!

Virtual 2020 GHF Gathering: IGNITE!

What is Ignite? Our first ever Global Health Fellows virtual three day event to connect, collaborate, and set the tone for the 2020-2021 school year. This inaugural gathering is a pilot where we, as fellows and directors, will develop and create a new shared experience to understand our world and the global health landscape as well as see our purpose and calling during such unprecedented times.

Theme: Engaging Our Communities Based on survey responses and group feedback sessions, the call to engage with our local community is clear!

First day of GHF Ignite, recounted by Leila Jamali ‘21 and Maddie Brooks ‘21

We began our first day of the GHF gathering with an introduction / storytime from our directors and an icebreaker: where would you go in the world if you could go anywhere right now? After the introductions, we finally met our running partners for the coming year. These running partners (one senior, one junior, one sophomore) are accountability teams to check in on one another, provide feedback and support on projects, etc. After a short break, we were joined by Lauren Kiger (NA Class of 2002, Director of Corporate Philanthropy at CHKD) who talked to us about her experience with philanthropy and CHKD’s new mental health program and building. It was amazing to see a new kind of program for children relating to mental health in our local area. 

Lauren Kiger (NA ’02; Director of Corporate Philanthropy at CHKD) presenting about the new CHKD Mental Health Hospital and expanded services.

We then shifted into our case competition work, where Mrs. Hall initially introduced the process along with the task we have been given surrounding the case, “Towards Equity, Efficiency, and Eradication: Cervical Cancer Control in Rwanda.” For the next two days, we will be working in groups to propose a more comprehensive Cervical Cancer Program in the form of a presentation, which will be judged by a professional panel! After a quick discussion about the 6 Elements of Success, the essential components for any successful intervention or project, including adequate funding, political champions, and technical innovations, we dove into working on this case. We broke into our teams to discuss how to begin research and development of a program for this case. 

Finally, we introduced “elevator pitches,” short descriptions of your program/idea or of yourself in relation to your program. For our purpose, Global Health Fellows use these quick pitches to introduce speakers or strangers to what our fellows group is or who we are. We will be able to practice these with each other in the coming days and start to develop a stronger GHF bond!

It was a great first day together (virtually), and a good kickoff to the upcoming year!


Second day of GHF Ignite, recounted by Ella Davis ‘21 and Anaiya Roberts ‘21

The second day of IGNITE: A GHF Kickoff  began with a few bumps and bruises. Caught in the aftermath of a particularly windy tropical storm, a few students didn’t have power that morning – a predicament that proved to be especially challenging through virtual communication. Nonetheless, we were able to quickly get in touch with one another and delay the start of our Zoom gathering to begin with a presentation from Dr. Tom Chamberlain

Dr. Chamberlain talked to the majority of the GHFs along with Mr. Wetmore about Healthier757: a community-wide health literacy initiative to improve the health and wellness of Hampton Roads’ citizens and the economic prosperity of our region. His talk really enhanced our vision of working locally this year, and it was especially empowering to learn that some of their work directly targets student health literacy. In the spring, Michela Jones ‘21 tackled that issue with Dr. Chamberlain’s EdLogics platform, aimed at improving health literacy through interactive games, and created a friendly competition between all Fellows groups. Through rewards and a lot of smack talk, we were all able to better comprehend different health issues. 

After meeting with Dr. Chamberlain, we continued on with the events planned for the rest of the day. Following a short break, to regroup and assess the virtual accessibility of students, we met within our case competition groups to prepare for our presentations the next day. The case competition this year was based on a case from UVa centered around cervical cancer control in Rwanda. Each group had to propose an idea to the Rwandan government to more efficiently and effectively control cervical cancer cases in the country. 

After time with our groups, we decided that it would be best to end the day with a silly icebreaker, after the difficulty of the day. The icebreaker of the day was for each student to pick a movie to watch, if they could only watch one for the rest of their lives. This simple question was followed by a lot of silent, muted Zoom laughter. It was a light-hearted end to a stressful day.


Third day of GHF Ignite

Recounted by Erin Clayton ‘21

And just like that, we arrived to the final day of IGNITE 2020! Michela and I kicked the day off with a quick icebreaker of, “If you had to delete all but one app from your phone, what would you keep?”. I loved hearing the different answers everyone had and reasons behind their choice! Next in the morning, Mrs. Eskander led us in a current events discussion, mainly regarding COVID-19. We broke into breakout groups and deliberated the complex decision to return to school, and it was very interesting to better understand everyone’s different point of view.

Discussing COVID-19 in Virginia

We swiftly moved into a final 15 minute practice with our case groups, and then met our judges for the competition: Gabi Diskin (NA and GHF ‘18, UVa ‘22), Sara Krivascy (UVa ‘20), and Mr. Wetmore! Gabi is a Norfolk Academy Global Health Fellow alum from the Class of 2018, so it was great to reconnect with her as she is now entering in the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at UVA (in fact, she participated in a competition of this same case at UVA earlier this year!). Sara is a recent graduate of UVA and was the lead case writer of this case, so she was able to provide an amazing perspective on how to approach a solution. And of course, we know Mr. Wetmore as the Director of the Batten Leadership Program at Norfolk Academy. 

GHFs hearing from GHF Alums Gabi Diskin ’18 and Justine Kaskel ’17.

Recounted by Michela Jones ‘21:

Following the introduction of our judges we moved into our first case competition presentations of 2020. Everyone did a great job, and especially the 23s as it was their first case competition as Global Health Fellows. The judges provided some productive feedback with many challenging questions after each group presented. Afterwards, the judges and directors deliberated and selected the group of Ella, Abby, Julianne, Bella, and Gavin as the winners (congrats!). Their solution centered around the comprehensive training and use of Community Health Workers (CHWs) to promote self-screening, implementing further sexual health educational programs in schools, and recruiting President Paul Kagame as the initiative’s champion and social media advocate.

We shifted our attention to a panel of Norfolk Academy and Global Health Fellow alums including Gabi Diskin from the Class of 2018, Justine Kaskel, from the Class of 2017, and James Hood from the Class of 2019. They provided some insight on their lives and gave us some feedback about college and Norfolk Academy. It’s always nice to catch up with former NA students.

James Hood (NA GHF ’19 and Dartmouth ’23) speaking to the GHFs about his summer experience COVID contact tracing in Virginia Beach.

Next up, we broke up by cohort and reflected on IGNITE 2020. Finally, we all came together and shared some concluding thoughts. It was great to connect virtually with all the Global Health Fellows these past few days and we can’t wait to bring the energy from IGNITE directly into the 2020-2021 school year!!

Travel Home from Belize – Day 8

Written by Madeleine Munn ’19 to recount Saturday, June 16, 2018:

1 hour and 13 minutes. We will touch down in Norfolk then, and there is no world in which I could capture 8 days in 1 hour and 13 minutes. Douglas Adams said that “to give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.” You could not have measured the chance to turn on a light in a young girl’s mind which had never even known it was in the dark. You could not have bought the smile on Ray’s face when he finally met and talked to a Mennonite. You could not have measured or bought the kindness and openness of 97 patients. There’s no buying or measuring or summarizing 8 days of intense experience, thoughtful reflection, and sweet, tender moments- 8 days of sincerity and integrity. It was a bittersweet finale for the seniors, a fresh first for the sophomores, and an exciting adventure for all.

We traveled to towns where people had no teason to open their door to teenage gringos who wanted to measure their glucose levels, blood pressure, and vitals, but they did- without hesitation- and we were lucky to talk with them and to begin to ponder how to continue a relationship with their communities. The point is, we (the USA) have a lot to learn from Belize, its residents, its healthcare system (and its food!!). It is many things but ugly is not one of them. Neither is unfriendly. Every single person we met was equally as welcoming and beautiful as the landscape they inhabited. That says a lot about people. In a lot of ways, we become our surroundings; but also, we choose the final product- we choose unearned gratitude, trustworthy affection, boundless grace. We are shaped by them but they don’t determine us, only we do that.

As I look around me at our tired faces, I feel the fullness of the hearts inside. I feel the heat of last night’s bonfire, the final gathering. I hear the laughter of a group that put an insane amount of work into changing the world, and drank sodas together in the downtime. And I know that no matter how delirious some of us may be after a day of traveling and a week of hard work, and no matter how much we are waiting, on the edge of our seats, for the summer ahead, Belize will always be our rose.

Unite for Sight Conference 2018

Five Global Health Fellows from the Class of 2020 attended the Unite for Sight Global Health and Innovation Conference, April 13-15, 2018, at Yale University. Here are their reflections on the weekend:

Connor Tiffany:

This past weekend, the Global Health Fellows were granted with the opportunity to attend the Unite for Sight Conference, the leading global health and social entrepreneurship conference in the world. Hosted at Yale University, this thought-provoking event convened many participants from all over the globe, including teachers, business professionals, economists, professors, doctors, and lawyers with the common goal to improve health inequity, social injustice, and access to safe, affordable care. During the conference, we attended lectures on cultural competence, global engagement and innovation, health policy and advocacy, and technology’s social impact, hosted by an insightful group of professionals with a comprehensive expertise in their fields. One of my favorite lectures of the weekend, presented by James Clarke, an African ophthalmologist working for Unite for Sight organization in Ghana, offered an intriguing lesson about culture shock and the unequaled importance of one’s culture. He explained through his striking anecdotes that his years of caring for patients have taught him to cherish his own culture, charging him to dig deep and learn the hidden values of the Ghanaian peoples. It was speakers like James Clarke, who offered a diverse perspective on personal and meaningful topics, that made the overall experience of the conference so unique! Following the long first day, we visited Pablo Vasquez, a former Norfolk Academy alumni (Class of 2016) and student at Yale University (Class of 2020), who guided us around the campus and gave us an exclusive tour of the Pierson and Branford residential colleges. While touring the campus, I was truly delighted to be walking through the halls of such a historic and renowned institution. Conclusively, my experience at the Unite For Sight Conference was exceptional, and I learned a lot about successfully implementing interventions, and working with other cultures in foreign settings. After this conference, I left feeling satisfied, enlightened, inspired, and excited by the prospects of my future success working on the ground in San Antonio, Belize.

Sahib Chandi:

Early in the morning of Saturday, April 14th, we listened to the first lecture of many, given by Jordan Levy of Ubuntu Pathways, who discussed the process of Innovation. He said that once an idea is created, one must secure adequate funding through donors, achieve an appropriate scale, then change the status quo through human interaction. He also discussed the importance of community and donor involvement in any intervention. Following the keynote, we listened to a panel who touched on the importance of cultural sensitivity and competency as the key to overcoming cultural and social stigma. These inspiring words were very insightful as we ourselves think about implementation of our projects in Belize. Later that day, we heard from a group of professionals who were presenting their health innovations in low-resource settings. For example, Edgar Rodas, president of Cinterandes discussed his implementation of a mobile surgery truck in rural Ecuador. Following him, Shwetha Maddur of Seva Corps explained her innovative idea for the prevention of hypothermia in preterm infants, through a low-cost, transportable heating blanket. We ended Saturday with a Social Impact Lab, pertaining to refugee and immigrant health. Particularly, Dr. Ijeoma Nnodim presented her proposal of a mobile health clinic for immigrant communities in the inner city of Detroit, called Love on the Move. With the conclusion of Saturday, I was not only tired, but inspired by the innovation and insight of these professionals.

Before we had to catch a flight back home, we attended the keynote address of Sunday, in which Jeffrey Sachs, a University Professor at Columbia, discussed the importance of funding and investment to propel the Sustainable Development Goals. He also explained the correlation of U.S. aid spending and various improvements in global health. To conclude the conference for us, we attended the section on the Community Health Academy, in which they discussed this revolutionary platform for the networking and education of Community Health Workers. Having learned so much in such a short time, I feel truly inspired by the experts of the field. They have provided our program with vital information for our responsible implementation of projects in Belize.

Julia Duarte:

Surrounded by countless geniuses in Global Health societies and professors from the best universities at the Unite for Sight Conference, I could not settle my nerves as I entered the big double doors leading into the architecturally beautiful Shubert Theatre. Holding my coffee and croissant from Starbucks, I sat down in a red chair and awaited the Keynote speaker, shifting through my agenda booklet. At 8:00 in the morning, introductions were made and Dr. Jordan Levy, the keynote speaker, walked onto the stage. As he began to speak, I perceived the repetition of a certain word: relationships. Dr. Levy articulated his strong belief of maintaining strong and lasting relationships with his team, locals, and the people who supported him financially. He expressed that the trust between his team and a community creates a bond that allows for a successful intervention. This theme of relationships was repeated throughout the central ideas of other speakers. For example, Mrs. Annette Cycon, the creator of a Group Peer Support for women’s mental health in rural Guatemala, not only partnered with local community health workers to provide culturally-acceptable lessons for mothers and their children, but she also collaborated with another organization on the ground, the Maya Health Alliance. With this group, they conducted perinatal home visits and added more lessons to their curriculum. The act of collaboration seems to strengthen the Global Health world and produce an intervention with the best outcome.

Another highlight from this conference was the presentations of social impact pitches. This session consisted of a five-minute presentation of a budding, potential project by a young innovator. After the presentation, the audience had a limited amount of time to ask their own questions, but the stage was quickly turned over to a couple experts, who were in essence evaluating each project. The presenter was allowed to ask two of their most pressing questions to the experts, who would try their best to answer them, and in turn, would ask some of their questions and/or concerns about the project. The intense setting created by the long pauses as presenters considered the answers to complex questions from the “judges” made the experience much more fascinating (however I did feel a twinge of pity when a presenter admitted that she did not have an answer). Overall, the creative and ingenuity-filled projects inspired me to think outside of the box regarding my own project and to confirm that there are no blinding issues that I have disregarded.

On the plane flight back to Virginia, I reflected on my weekend and realized that although my brain was filled to the rim with incredible facts about maternal health in rural Guatemala and glaring mental health issues in refugee populations, the experience of traveling with my four best friends and the best teacher-mentor out there definitely was the biggest highlight.

Laura Read:

On the balmy Friday morning of April 13th, Julia, Connor, Ells, Sahib, Mrs. Hall, and I excitedly departed from campus at 11:00 AM to catch our flight to New Haven, Connecticut at the Norfolk International Airport.  We planned on attending the Unite for Sight Global Health and Innovation Conference, the world’s leading and largest global health conference held at Yale University.  Despite a flight delay in Philadelphia, the six of us landed safely in New Haven, where we dropped off our bags at the Omni Hotel and headed out for dinner at Shake Shack.

Even though we were tired from our travels, we woke up to check in for the conference at 7:00 AM with a little help from Starbucks coffee.  Jordan Levy, the keynote speaker, presented in the Shubert Theater about the importance of long-term human relationships and interactions in global health over an immediate product. We learned about the importance of authentic, truthful conversations between partners and comprehensive strategies. Following the address, we listened to a panel that further explored the importance of cultural competence and partnerships. This topic was particularly insightful and relevant to our goals in the Fellows Program.

Afterwards, we decided to divide and conquer the following sessions around campus in pairs in order to obtain the most information possible out of them. Julia and I first went to a maternal health session where we watched three presenters discuss the post-Ebola restoration of maternal and child health services in Liberia, aiding postpartum depression through support groups, and the feminization of aging women around the world. I found the second topic interesting because it directly related to our current women’s health group project. Annette Cycon, a social worker, is working to create a social curriculum to benefit women suffering from mental health issues. Mental-health-related causes of death are the most prevalent in the world, yet psychologists and psychiatrists are virtually nonexistent in developing countries. Her views and insights into cultural stigmas were fascinating.

After lunch and a debriefing session at Panera Bread, Mrs. Hall and I went to a reproductive, maternal, and child health session.  We learned about BRAC’s Empowerment and Livelihoods for Adolescents program, cervical cancer prevention in Ethiopia, a checklist for safe childbirth in Haiti, and the cost-effectiveness of quality prenatal care in Rwanda. It was an intriguing session that provided information that will certainly help our group project.

Afterwards, I went to a social impact lab with Ells. This type of session allowed three or four individuals to present their company or innovation to a panel of experts and receive advice from the audience.  The topics covered were facility dogs in hospitals, health safety in nail salons, and a noninvasive treatment for detecting cervical cancer.  It was interesting to watch the exchange of ideas and feedback in a professional setting.  My final session on Saturday was a panel about careers in global health.  I learned about the importance of not viewing it as heroism, but making sure it actually means something to you, which I enjoyed hearing.

At 7:00 PM, the six of us met with Pablo Vazquez, a Norfolk Academy alum who is a student at Yale.  He gave us our own personal tour of the beautiful campus, which radiated stunning Gothic architecture full of life.  It was amazing to see the libraries, gyms, and theaters all hidden within residential walls.  Later on, went out to dinner with him, and Julia and I had great conversations with him about sports, routines, and everything we could ever wish to know about university life.  Pablo gave us all wonderful life advice, and told us to never segment our lives and put family aside.  It was great to meet him.

The following chilly Sunday morning was our last day in New Haven!  We attended the keynote address given by Jeffrey D. Sachs.  He spoke about the fact that global health is a right, not a luxury.  It was interesting to hear his statistics given about funding and breakthroughs.  Even though we couldn’t stay for the entire first session because of our early afternoon flight, we split off into pairs again to attend what we could.  Sahib and I listened to a panel speak about educating community health workers.  It was extremely insightful and I learned about training them though large scale social change by investing in social entrepreneurs.

At 11:00 AM, we reconvened at the Omni Hotel to catch our flight at the New Haven airport, a very small terminal with only two gates.  After catching up on homework and resting on the plane, we landed safely back in Norfolk in the late afternoon.

Ells Boone:

This past weekend I attended the Unite for Sight Conference at Yale University with my fellow GHF 20s and Ms. Hall. The conference consisted of multiple 90 minute sessions on Saturday and Sunday with varying topics pertaining to global health. The sessions which I attended were: Responsible Global Engagement and Innovation Panel; Global Health Technology Social Impact Lab; Social Impact Lab: Innovative Solutions to Global Health Challenges; Building a Fulfilling Career in Global Health Panel; and Cutting-Edge Ideas in Development: GHIC Innovation Prize Semi-finalist Pitches. My favorite sessions were the social impact labs. A social impact lab is a series of presentations in which a person presents an innovation in the realm of global health. It is very similar to the show Shark Tank. The presenter has 5 minutes to present his research and project idea and then hears questions from the audience and esteemed judges. In my opinion, the best social impact pitch was Jonathan Sigworth’s which was entitled “Developing Mobile Video Courses for Spinal Cord Injury Therapy Guidance and Local Peer Mentoring Worldwide.” Sigworth’s pitch was a new app which he designed specifically for those who are paralyzed from the waist down. His app can be used to learn how to function on your own without assistance and to do activities which most people take for granted. In addition to the sessions, there was also a keynote speaker on Sunday morning. The speaker was Jeffrey Sachs who is the Director of the Center for Sustainable Development and a professor at Columbia University. Mr. Sachs gave an interesting talk about the Sustainable Development Goals and how they are achievable.

All in all, this conference was a great experience and I have come out of it inspired to do more work in global health.


Leadership Lab for GHF ’19s

While our GHF ’18s and ’20s have been in Belize this week, a few of our ’19s have been participating on the Leadership Lab alongside all other Center for Civic and Global Leadership Fellows in their class (Chesapeake Bay Fellows, Literacy Fellows, International Relations Fellows, Engineering/Design/Innovation Fellows). Three week-long Leadership Labs are happening throughout the course of the summer. Half of the week is spent in the wilderness at Calleva Farm and the last few days are spent in Washington, DC. Here is a picture of the first CCGL ’19s Leadership Lab group after their solo night in the woods: