Batten Civic and Global Leadership Program Retreat – GHF Welcomes the Class of 2021!

Morning Welcome and Team Builder with the 2021s by Anaiya Roberts (2021)

On Thursday, it was the first day of our Fellows Retreat. For the first day, all of the new entrees from the class of 2021, had their own day of initiation. The first activity of the day was supported by a prompt on saving the world from a zombie apocalypse. The entire group of 2021’s was divided into 2 teams of about 8 people of mixed Fellows groups, and we were given a box full of a variety of supplies. We were challenged with building something that would take the “anti zombie pill” and a roll of toilet paper across the “Pit of Misery” (the pool). We were on a clock of about 30 minutes to build the craft and get it across the Pit of Misery without touching it. Once we made it across the Pit of Misery, we then had to wrap a team member in the toilet paper and give them the anti zombie pill. During this activity, we as a group, and myself personally, learned that to be an efficient member of any team or group, you have to work together. That is the only way, and really, the easiest way that things will get done. What worked for our group was coming up with a plan, splitting up into groups, and carrying out the plan. Another key part, is the level of communication within a group. If only one person is talking, your group may be missing out on an idea that may be more efficient and quicker to carry out. Overall, the activity was a success among all of the 21’s, and I can say that it was a fun and exciting way to teach us these lessons.


GHF 21s Maddie and Anaiya help their group plan for the attack of the zombies in their team builder with Coach McMahon.


Intro to Global Health Terminology by Erin Clayton (2021):  

As we transitioned into the academic portion of our day, the 21s and Mrs. Hall, Mrs.Goodson, and Ms.Nasimiyu gathered in the Catapult Press/Old Fellows room in Batten Library. We began our global health education by watching Hans Rosling’s 200 countries, 200 years, in 4 minutes. We were able to track with the infographic how life expectancy and income were related across countries and their status in the world. Next, we watched an informative video by the Kaiser Family Foundation featuring Kellie Moss. In the video, we learned about some terms including prevalence, incidence, morbidity, mortality, the burden of disease, and DALY, or disease adjusted life expectancy. These terms are important as we discuss global health in Case Studies and in general conversations. Afterwards, we ate a delicious lunch of TASTE and discussed tips for Saturday’s case study on Obesity in Mexico. 

Reflections on our Trip to Operation Blessing International by Ella Davis (2021)

As we piled into two cars prepared for our first field trip, our groups worked on individual “elevator pitches” during the 40 minute drive. While heading down just above North Carolina, there were many long discussions about the elevator pitches and how to describe what the Global Health Fellowship is. After a fun-filled journey, we arrived at the Operation Blessing Mosquito Lab where we were greeted by Holly Beistline. She showed us into a conference room and introduced many issues related to global health. In Kenya, there are problems involving childbirth for women in villages with no technology and the nearest health clinic a 4 hours walk away.

We were welcomed to OBI’s Mosquito Lab by Holly Beistline, Program Manager in International Health.

Holly told us about her experience with a woman named Naomi who had preeclampsia during labor. Her limbs were swollen, however the Community Health Worker (CHW) who was trained by Operation Blessing was able to refer her to go to a health clinic (instead of eating goat fat) where she was able to successfully give birth to twins. Without the assistance of the CHW and Operation Blessing, the death of Naomi and her twins was very likely, and it showed us the developing countries’ daily struggles to survive without resources we take for granted here in the U.S.

GHF 21s were given a tour of the Mosquito Lab by OBI’s President Bill Horan and insect expert Tim!

After that impacting presentation, we were introduced to the dangers of mosquitoes who carry Zika. We were taught that mosquitoes carrying Zika are able to penetrate a pregnant woman’s placenta, giving the disease the ability to deform the child. There was a huge breakout in Brazil, and Operation Blessing has spent the past years coming up with ways to reduce the amounts of mosquitoes in places such as Brazil and Haiti. We learned that they raise turtles to eat the mosquito larvae while they are growing in the water. It was really interesting being able to see the tiny little larva under a microscope. We then concluded our trip with a few closing statements, and it was all in all a fantastic way to start our journey with the Global Health Fellows.

BCGLP Winter Retreat – Day 2

2018 Global Health Fellows’ Retreat: Friday Morning Blog Post by Andrew Thetford

Dr. Malkin introduces himself sharing how he ended up in global health and the birth of GPSA!

Our first Global Health Retreat of 2018 began at 8:15 sharp, when the ‘18, ‘19, ‘20, and brand new ‘21 cohorts met on the upper floor of our new Massey Leadership Center with Mrs Goodson, Mrs. Hall, Ms. Nasimiyu, and our mentor and friend Dr. Bob Malkin, a professor of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University.  We met Dr. Malkin in the summer of 2016 during our retreat to Duke and UNC, and Dr. Malkin has since proven to be very helpful in designing and helping to shape our intervention in Belize.  

Previous to this retreat, the three older cohorts had split up into groups of different interests in an effort to cover all the different fields of aid that our projects in Belize could tackle.  Groups included community enrichment, female empowerment, health and well-being, hygiene and sanitation, and technology.  Each group had already presented to all of the older fellows, but the new ‘21s and Dr Malkin had yet to hear from any of the groups.  For the older fellows, these presentations served to hone their public speaking and presenting skills and to receive feedback and constructive criticism from a public health expert; for the ‘21s, the presentations served to show them what the GHFs have been up to over the past few months and to introduce them to what the program is all about; and for Dr. Malkin, the presentations also served to enlighten him on the goings-on of the program.  After each presentation, there was a brief Q&A session for each group, with Dr. Malkin providing very thoughtful insight with positive feedback and things to consider for each presentation/theoretical intervention.

Dr. Malkin had to be back at Duke by around 2 in the afternoon, so our time with him was brief but filled with lots of learning and important takeaways.  After this rather intensive educational session, we played an icebreaker that involved gathering in a circle and passing around a beach ball that had questions written all over it.  Questions ranged from “What’s your favorite toothpaste flavor?” to “What’s your favorite karaoke song?” and really helped to diffuse any discomfort that might have been present, especially in the ‘21s.  To cap off the GHF morning, we split into groups: the ‘20s led the ‘21s in a discussion of the book Better by Atul Gawande- a classic introductory read for new GHFs, and the ‘18s and ‘19s discussed Dr. Malkin’s feedback and plans for the future until lunchtime.

Better Discussion Groups by Leila Jamali (2021)

Our Class of 2020 leads a book discussion on Better by Atul Gawande with our newest Fellows!

After reviewing the presentations with Dr. Malkin, the sophomores and freshmen separated from the juniors and seniors. In the lobby of the Massey Leadership Center, we discussed the book Better by Atul Gawande, a surgeon who narrated about his experiences in the field. The sophomores and freshmen split up, each group with 2 freshmen and 2 sophomores, who had split up by section of the book. The sophomores asked us debatable questions about their specific sections and quotes, and our general thoughts on certain topics relating to the events in the book. When I was in Courtney and Ells’s group, we talked about the different ways doctors performed surgery during a war setting and how they were able to accomplish it as cleanly as possible. This topic really interested me, especially reading about the amazing things doctors are able to do in the field. The freshmen rotated through 2 of the 3 groups. We only did this for about 10-20 minutes before we had to go to lunch and continue the rest of our first retreat as Global Health Fellows.


Batten Civic and Global Leadership Program Focuses on Sea Level Rise by Ingrid Benkovitz (2019)

All members of the Batten Civic and Global Leadership Program gather to discuss sea level rise.

After enjoying lunch with one another, we ventured back to the Massey Leadership Center for the afternoon activities relating to sea level rise. It began with Mr. Nelson’s remarks and introduction to a short documentary, On the Chesapeake, about the effects that climate change and sea level rise has had on coastal areas off the Chesapeake Bay. The film had not only beautiful pictures and videos of our bay, but was also filled with shocking and often upsetting facts and statistics of what the future of our society could look like without change.

We then broke up into small discussion groups of about 10 students from all different grades and Fellows groups. We discussed a variety of articles that we had read, each outlining a different implication of sea level rise. We came back together and each group shared their major takeaways in front of all of the Fellows, directors, and a panel of adults with experience working to change the state of our environment and bay. My group, for example, explained the difference between a proactive and a reactive culture, as well as lifestyle changes we saw necessary. Others mentioned the extensive consequences of sea level rise or the difficulty of successfully implementing projects in places where many people do not believe in the cause. Each student was more enlightening than the last and the points brought up were thought-provoking, leaving me questioning and ready to learn more.

The panel that was present consisted of men and women from a wide range of occupations, from government workers to engineers, and they were eager to answer questions and help us understand what we can do to make change and inspire others to make change. Mr. Wetmore concluded the day with some closing remarks as we look forward to more work tomorrow!

GHF Atlanta Retreat 2017 – Day 3

Reflections from Julia Duarte (GHF 2020)

On our last day, our 7:30 alarms rang in our ears as we woke up and proceeded to prepare for the day ahead. All of the Fellows met in the lobby at 8:15 and we headed to pick up our breakfast. Bringing our usual bagels and coffee with us on the bus, we set out to Emory University. Mrs. Hall and Mrs. Goodson decided to challenge us with an early morning scavenger hunt around Emory. Each cohort was a team and was given a list of buildings and statues and a map. We then proceeded to search for and take pictures of different structures in the humid climate. After walking around the campus for thirty minutes, the three groups met up at the bus to go to our next stop.

GHFs ready to enter the museum at the CDC.

Our next destination was the David J. Spencer CDC Museum. We spent over an hour and a half viewing many exhibits throughout the three floors of the museum. Each exhibit was filled with the many accomplishments of the CDC, along with the vast accounts and facts of many diseases and illnesses. The first exhibit covered Ebola, which comprised of fascinating images and original artifacts from 2014. As we headed down the stairs, we read from walls of information, including of the story of AIDS, a little on Guinea Worm disease, and the obesity problem in the United States. In a separate room downstairs, we took turns putting on BSL 4 suits and experiencing the load of clothing that health workers had to wear during the Ebola epidemic. Afterwards, we met upstairs and drove to Victory Sandwich Bar for lunch.

Ingrid and Andrew (GHF ’19) pose in BSL-4 lab gear at the CDC.

After a tasty lunch, we traveled to the Carter Center in Atlanta, which, sponsored by President Jimmy Carter, works to solve diplomatic issues peacefully as well as working to help impoverished communities worldwide. We had the pleasure of speaking with Angelia Sanders, a Hampton Roads native and former Peace Corps worker, who talked with us mainly about the Carter Center’s effort to make guinea worm disease the second disease ever eradicated after smallpox. She described her experience living in a South Sudanese village helping the community eradicate guinea worm. We all found her talk extremely interesting and engaging, giving us insight into the lives of both those affected by Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) like Guinea worm and also of those trying to eliminate them.

Angelia Sanders presents on her work with Trachoma and Guinea Worm eradication.

After our interesting talk with Mrs. Sanders, we were given an hour to look around the Jimmy Carter Presidential Museum. Many of us enjoyed the Countdown to Zero: Defeating Disease exhibit. It elaborated on the process of eradicating diseases, such as Guinea worm disease, polio, and river blindness. Other parts of the museum included the life of Jimmy Carter, his biggest accomplishments in office, and even a replica of the Oval Office in the White House. Then, we headed back to the hotel and had a few hours to relax and pack our bags for our travelling day tomorrow.    

After a delicious dinner at a local Tex-Mex restaurant, we all gathered to discuss the central mission of the Global Health Fellows Program and modify our guiding mission statement. This gave us the opportunity to set our goals for the upcoming year and those that follow.  We also discussed ways to keep each other accountable for staying up to date on pressing global health issues and news. We all feel confident and inspired heading into the coming year: ready to accomplish our goals and put our thoughts into action.

GHF Atlanta Retreat 2017 – Day 2

Reflections on the morning from Laura Read (GHF 2020).

On Wednesday, it was yet another bright and early start for the fellows, having to be ready in the hotel lobby by 7:00am! We returned to the bagel café and Starbucks for breakfast and were ready to begin the day, boarding the van at 7:15.

Waiting for the keynote speaker, Dr. Gary Gibbons at Emory’s Think Big Symposium.

Emory University‘s Think Big Symposium: Applying Collaborative Big Data Science for Predictive Health was being held at 8:00am, which we were almost late to thanks to a spot of busy Atlanta traffic. After entering the Rollins School of Public Health, we attended the key note address by Dr. Gary Gibbons, MD. He is the director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) at the National Institute of Health. The NHLBI provides global leadership for research, training, and education to promote the prevention of heart, lung, and blood disorders. He also graduated magma cum laude from Harvard Medical School.

The principle topic during the address was the collaboration between numerical data and how to use that for predictive health and medicine. We learned how healthy people are being studied to foreshadow who will become sick in the future. The NHBLI is aiming to train the new generation of leaders in science and improve the health of the nation. We ended up staying for the first speaker of the panel, Arshed Quyyumi, who spoke about cardiovascular health. He linked healthy people’s data to predict if they would develop heart disease. Surprisingly, factors like marriage and place of living had significant impact of the outcomes.

“After a long few hours of lectures, we decided you might want some caffeine… we’re going to the World of Coca Cola!” were the words of Mrs. Hall, a welcome surprise! We drove over to the Coke Museum, where we took photos outside near a giant bottle cap. Albeit being mostly for fun, we linked the trip to global health because Coca Cola is a significant contributor to the diabetes and obesity epidemic. We thought about the controversy if whether or not it’s Cola’s responsibility, or not because they’re a business. We were greeted by a can of coke and smile, followed by a room full of nostalgic Coca Cola memorabilia. Then we were led to the main area, where we could walk around and learn about the company’s history, see how classic Coke is made, and explore Coca Cola in pop culture. Perhaps the most exciting attraction of all was the tasting room, where there were over a hundred flavors from around the world to choose from! There were a few good ones, but many of them tasted funny (see: the neon green soft drink from Djibouti). Our personal favorite was a drink from Italy called Beverly. It was reminiscent of mouthwash and liquid cough medicine. There was a lot of laughing and it was so much fun to hang out with everyone! After a quick round through the gift shop at the end, we headed off to the Mellow Mushroom for a delicious lunch.

GHFs in front of the World of Coca Cola Museum!

Reflections on the second half of the day from Connor Tiffany (GHF 2020).

In the afternoon, we ventured away from the city, and traveled to Yerkes National Primate Research center, a facility dedicated to conducting essential basic science and translational research to advance scientific understanding and to improve human health and wellbeing. With its status as a national personnel records centers, Yerkes is home to more than 3,000 non human primates, including squirrel monkeys, chimpanzees, and sooty mangabeys. On our tour, we spoke with Julie Moran, an assistant field station operation manager, who discussed the animals behavioral patterns, the various forms of research in which they are involved, and how that research is used to better the lives of humans. Despite the rain, we were fortunate to encounter multiple animals, learning of their vibrant personalities and different vocalizations, like blowing raspberries, a chimpanzee’s call which symbolizes trust and affection. I was especially grateful to meet Winston, a chimpanzee who was incredibly amicable, even with his status as the alpha male of his community. In correlation with our summer reading book Spillover, our experience at Yerkes helped us to better understand the phenomenon of zoonosis, an animal infection transmissible to humans, and how our involvement with animals can lead to the deaths of thousands.

Later in the evening, we made plans to dine at the vintage Rí Rá Irish Pub to replenish from our long day of focus. As we walked through the door and waited to be seated, we were surprised to see a cluster of Hollywood cameras and spotlights illuminating the interior of the historic restaurant. After eating dinner and learning that the fellows could possibly be featured on an episode of “Date Night Live”, everyone gathered around a hotel television and watched the cringe worthy episode unfold. To end the day, the senior fellows lead a productive discussion about “Spillover” and how it applies to the future of disease control.

GHF Atlanta Retreat 2017 – Day 1

Each summer, the GHF program kicks off the year with a retreat in August.  This summer, Fellows traveled to Atlanta, Georgia.  Reflections on the first full day of programming below are offered by Ingrid Benkovitz, GHF Class of 2019.


As we struggled to wake up after Tuesday’s long day of travel, the 2018-2020 Global Health Fellows met for breakfast promptly at 8:00. The idea of bagels and coffee helped the morning run smoothly. With full and happy stomachs, we ventured via Norfolk Academy bus to our first outing of the day: the CNN headquarters.

This stop included both a “behind the scenes” studio tour and a personal Q&A with Ben Tinker, Supervising Producer for CNN Health’s Emmy-winning Sanjay Gupta. The studio tour, although an hour long, felt more like 5 minutes long, for each pit-stop was more striking than the last. We were able to see control panels, green screens, and even a live broadcast during filming. While we assumed nothing could top what we had already seen, we were proven wrong. Shorty thereafter, we walked to a small conference room, in which we had the question and answer session with Mr. Tinker.

GHFs pose with Ben Tinker!

Mr. Tinker is simply incredible. His selfless, time-consuming work world-wide is inspiring, his stories fascinating. He briefed us on the three types of news (breaking news, pitches, and series) and explained his process in the tough decision-making of what is “newsworthy”. Having had personal experience in Haiti, including producing a segment there this summer, entitled “Champions for Change”, Tinker understood our work completely, saying, “I always try to leave a place better than I found it… It truly is just the right thing to do”. He continued on to tell us his favorite parts of what he considers the most rewarding job at CNN; to go places and to share peoples’ stories. He then left us with one note: “The stories are where you least expect them… It never ceases to amaze me where the stories come from, whether it be an interviewee’s assistant or the person next to you on an airplane”.  Tinker’s words of wisdom are not only relevant to us, but impactful beyond words.

Following the talk, we headed to a quick lunch in the CNN courtyard in preparation for the second half our day at Emory University Hospital Midtown. We were given a tour of some of the hospital’s most distinct facilities, such as the pharmacy, the new ICU, and the Interventional Radiology Center. The Interventional Radiologists (IRs) showed us some of the special stents and catheters that they use, even allowing us to hold and expand them ourselves. Luckily for us, Dr. Newsome, Olivia’s mom, is an IR at the hospital and created an IR innovation lab for us, where we were split into groups and tasked to plan and build a solution to a prompt relating to hospital safety or efficiency. After an hour of fun, yet challenging work, we presented to the IRs in a “Shark Tank” fashion, receiving feedback for our ideas and creations. We had a short Q&A with the IRs at the end, sparking a thought-provoking conversation about the rise of robots within medicine and whether we should expect some sort of robot takeover. Dr. Newsome dissolved our fears confidently and beautifully, as she remarked, “Try as I might, but you can’t teach a machine to do what I do because you can’t teach a machine to care”. She shared with us that our strongest asset is our ability to care. We are thankful to have such a wonderful, successful, and passionate role model in our lives and cannot thank her enough for the opportunities she has provided for us in Atlanta.

With the afternoon’s adventures coming to a close, we headed back to the hotel for some relaxation time and time to get ready for dinner at BurgerFi. After dinner, we spent the evening reviewing data from the ‘18s and ‘20s trip to Belize in June and getting excited for tomorrow!



Observing Cataract Surgery

The Global Health Fellows in the 2018 and 2019 cohorts recently read and discussed an interesting case from the Center for Global Development on treating cataracts in India.  Following the case, the 2019 cohort traveled to Virginia Eye Consultants.  

Below is a reflection from Andrew Thetford, GHF ’19.

This past Tuesday, the 22nd of March, the 2019 Global Health Fellows had the privilege of watching two cataract surgeries and touring the facility that offers these services.  Our day at the Virginia Eye Consultants Center began with a tour of their amazing building, one of the nicest and most comfortable medical centers I had ever been to.  We viewed the many offices that are located in the building, including a newly renovated area that greatly increased the working space.  We were also shown to two different machines for diagnosing cataracts and other issues in the eye.  One was the Fundus Photo Camera, and the other was called an OCT machine.  Each device took detailed pictures of the back of the eye using high resolution photos, and these pictures could then be studied to examine the severity of a cataract or other problems.  

After our tour, we watched our first surgery. The first patient was a woman around 75 years old, and she was having surgery done on a cataract in her left eye.  This being my first time observing a surgery, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but I was very amazed at what I saw.  The patient is awake the whole time, and is just given a pill to make them feel “as if they have had a couple of drinks,” as our guide explained.  They have to focus on a light directly above them during the entire surgery, which lasts 7-10 minutes, and they feel absolutely nothing during the procedure.  The surgeon began by lubricating the eyeball with fluid, then making two small incisions around and above the iris, the colored part of the eye.  After making these cuts, he sliced off the thin membrane that sits right above the lens of the eye, which itself sits right below the iris and can be seen through the pupil, the dark opening in the center of the iris.  He then removed this membrane with a very small pair of tweezer-like tools.  Now, the cataract was visible.  And like I said, I’m no cataract expert at all, but even I could tell that this was one old cataract.  It was very thick and dark, and really reminded me of the inside of a jelly bean in appearance and texture.  The doctor poked around for a little bit, then inserted a vacuum-like tool into the slits and began to extract the cataract.  Because of the thickness of the cataract, it took a while.  The cataract fell apart in chunks and was quickly sucked up by the tube.  After finishing, the doctor inserted the new lens into the opening.  The lens was rolled up like a contact, and sprung apart once inserted into the eye.  The new lens immediately improves vision, allowing the patient to perceive colors and details that they had not been able to in a long time.  

Our second patient was a little different.  A few years younger than the previous patient, this woman had had a laser procedure done on the cataract before actually having it removed.  This means that a precision laser device softened and cut up the cataract to make it easier to extract.  This combined with a younger and softer cataract made for a swifter and easier procedure.  

After finishing up with both patients, we finished our visit with a tour of the Pre- and Post-Op area.  This room was filled with curtained-off sections for wheelchairs and hospital beds.  One of the patients we had watched, who had just finished up with surgery no more than 15 minutes before, was already up and ready to leave.  We were also shown the laser machine that performed the preliminary procedure on the second patient.  It filled an entire room, and had several dials and buttons that made no sense to my cohort.  The operator of the machine, however, obviously possessed a wealth of knowledge and experience for how to operate the device, and gave us a very detailed overview of how it worked.

Our trip to the Virginia Eye Consultants was a great experience.  The 18’s and 19’s just recently finished a case study discussing cataracts in India, so this was an awesome way to experience it firsthand.  Additionally, several of us are interesting in further researching optical health in developing countries, so having learned about and witnessing cataract surgeries is not a bad thing to have under our belts.

GHF Visits CGH at UVa

The Global Health Fellows traveled to Charlottesville, Virginia on February 10th and 11th for a wonderful opportunity visiting UVA’s Center for Global Health, a panel at Darden School’s “Pay for Success” conference, and spent some time reflecting on the year and goal setting for the spring semester.  

Below are reflections from our Fellows from the weekend:

Friday Morning – By Kara Kaufman (GHF ’19)

We began our trip with a departure at 7:30 from Norfolk Academy. ​I, of course, grabbed two Hardees biscuits for the trip, and many of us slept through the entire bus ride. About half way there, Mrs. Goodson handed out the case study on Migrants in South Africa, and we congregated in our groups to devise a rough outline of our plan to solve one of the many issues mentioned within the case. We soon arrived at UVA’s Center for Global Health, which is a really nice work space and a new sight for the 20’s. April Ballard, one of the main directors of the center, gave us a warm welcome, and we received some advice from Colleen Laurence (UVA Case Competition Founder) via Skype about how we should go about tackling the case. Groups assembled once again and progressed their plans until lunchtime.

During lunch, we listened to Ashwinraj Karthikeyan talk about his project, Pheonix Aid, which designs and provids wound dressings for diabetic foot ulcers all over the world. Next, Ashwanth Samuel and Eliza Campbell touched on their research and work through public health. Samuel gave us his story and insight into the system of mobile banking in third world countries, and Campbell shared her experience in developing a more effective diagnosis for child depression in Malawi.

Then, a group of students and professors came to guide us through our cases, and really provided useful opinions and views that, for my group, completely changed and shaped our ideas. I felt much more confident in our program of a mobile clinic reaching outside of the insufficient government community clinics to reach all migrants within a neighborhood, tackling inequality within the heath care of South Africa. Finally, each group then presented their ideas informally, and it was time to leave.

Friday Evening – by Laura Read (GHF ’20)

It had been a long day of learning and interacting with incredible UVa students and leaders in the global health department. We’d had an incredible experience working with these people, but the day was coming to a close, and it was time to unwind with snow tubing at Wintergreen!
After a long day at the UVA CGH and Darden Business School, we gathered our snow gear (and snow pants) and changed quickly back at the Center for Global Health. Then we were in for the winding drive up the mountains! Mrs. Hall passed out some hand warmers which we were all thankful for when we finally reached the peak. After grabbing our gloves and hats, it was time to get our tickets and head out for an hour on the slopes. Tubing was so fun! It was an awesome opportunity to bond with each other, albeit getting our faces frozen and soaked in the artificial snow. There is nothing quite like the feeling of racing down a snowy hill in the dark with wind slapping your bare skin, surrounded by your friends.
Afterwards, we warmed up inside the cozy lodge. Olivia and I grabbed some hot chocolates (that had whipped cream amazingly) and waited for our hands to thaw.  Then our journey back down the Blue Ridge began: next stop, Rodes Farm.
The air was fresh and crisp, and we were greeted by Barbara, the kind woman who ran the farm. She welcomed us inside the Rodes Manor House for a warm dinner of lasagna, salad, and garlic bread, which was delicious after a long day! After dinner, we gathered in the living area to present our cases that we’d been working on all day. Each group presented a thoughtful and unique approach to the scenario, and each group member had insightful ideas that they presented to the meeting. It was nice to hear all that we had been working on, and the effects that the UVa students who had previously gone to South Africa had on our solutions. We all found out that we had started with completely different ideas before their input!
It was around 9:00pm, and we were all gathered outside in the dark on the edge of a hill. Just being on the hammock with the 20’s girls in the dark, under the stars and the full moon, was so nice. All the others were messing around on the rope swings on the other side of the tree. It was freezing, and all three of us were wrapped up in blankets and using the hand warmers from earlier. Then Mrs. Goodson and Mrs. Hall called us over to start the campfire, which took a while to start. But thanks to Hunt’s incredible fire-making skills, a lot of lighter fluid, a tissue, and old waiver sheets, a roaring fire was started before we froze. Helen brought stuff to make s’mores!
Mrs. Goodson asked us each to talk a little bit about what we like about Global Health Fellows and what we would like to accomplish in the next few years. It was really nice to just listen to the entire group voice their thoughts about the day and the program. We discussed what we want to do with our futures and the impacts we can make.
Around 11:00pm we finally made our way back to our houses and rooms. The 20’s all played Anomia with Mrs. Goodson, which resulted in a lot of competitive yelling! After a few good rounds of that, we headed to the second house where the others were. It was fun to bond with the 20’s then. We all headed to bed way too late.
It was a riveting day full of learning and laughter, and the fellows program is incredible for just this reason. I can’t wait for the next time we get to travel together.

Saturday Morning – by Ells Boone (GHF ’20)

The Global Health Fellows woke up on Saturday morning at Rodes Farm ready to go for our last day of the retreat. We awoke around 8 AM and enjoyed a breakfast consisting of bagels and bananas. After breakfast, we turned our attention towards improving our needs assessment that we will take to Belize this June. The needs assessment focuses on various questions from 7 main categories: Smoke inhalation problem due to inside cooking, Water/Sanitation, Hunger/Nutrition, Illness, Maternal and Child Health, Education, and Energy Poverty. Once we finished our work on the needs assessment, the fellows loaded up the bus and took off back to NA. On the ride back, we stopped at the Market at Bellair for sandwiches and continued on our way. We got home in time for Snowball (Upper School dance) and called the retreat a success.  

Dr. Janice Newsome speaks about Interventional Radiology

Dr. Janice Newsome, mother of Olivia Newsome (GHF ‘18) and doctor at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, came to talk to the Global Health Fellows in mid November about her journey into the medical field. Now an Interventional Radiologist at Emory, the path Dr. Newsome took towards her current career is unlike many we have previously heard. She was born in a poor community in Jamaica and was raised by a group of nuns from her community. At age 14, she moved to New York City and entered into a public school system extremely different from the one she had left. In Jamaica she was deemed “smart”, therefore she had focused on math and science classes and it was assumed that she would go into a similar career. Once in New York, she applied to the gifted program at school, not knowing if she was considered gifted or not, and was accepted into the more advanced public school system. After high school, she went through the 6 year undergraduate and medical school program at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She then continues with residency at VCU and a fellowship at Jackson Memorial Hospital. She worked at a few different hospitals before landing at Emory University as a doctor and a teacher.

Interventional Radiology is a recently added specialty, as is usually had fallen as a subspecialty of Radiology. These radiologists perform diagnostic procedures, treat obstructions and bleeding, perform procedures to avoid surgery and treat cancers, just to name a few. Dr. Newsome not only performs procedures, but also is constantly thinking of innovative ways to advance her field. She has five ongoing project designs for devices that will improve the effectiveness and efficiency of procedures. One of those projects is a bio convertible filter for patients whose blood will not clot properly. Typically the patient would have the filter inserted and then removed at a later date through another procedure. Dr. Newsome’s design would eliminate this second procedure, as the device would dissolve on its own. She works with a team of engineers to put her ideas into action and is preparing to present some of her new innovations at the Georgia Tech Capstone Design Expo this December. As well as working at the hospital, Dr. Newsome leads and mentors a group of Interventional Radiology fellows. Ever since she was a little girl in Jamaica, she gravitated toward teaching people anything and everything, and that passion still has not gone away. She believes that being able to share your knowledge and experience with others is a valuable skill and finds this part of her job to be extremely fulfilling.
Throughout her talk, Dr. Newsome reminded us to follow through with our passions, even if obstacles may stand in the way and to take advantage of all opportunities. She dedicated herself to what she loves and it has lead her to be a innovative and progressive leader in her field. Dr. Newsome remains grateful for the opportunities she was given on her own path to Emory and ended her presentation to us with the reminder: “To whom much is given, much is required.”

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!!


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.


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.  


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.  


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.


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.