Competition Fosters Critical Thinking on Global Health Issues
In April, an interdisciplinary team of students from both the College of Medicine and Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law competed in the annual Emory Global Health Case Competition (EGHCC). Every year, this unique competition challenges student groups from institutions worldwide to develop innovative solutions to a 21st-century global health issue. This year, 23 groups offered their solutions for preventing and treating obstetric fistulas in India.
The Einstein team works on developing their solution. (From left) Arjun Seth (medical student), Maha Haqqani (medical student), Jamie Leonard (medical student), Oren Mayer (PhD student), Lediana Goduni (medical student) and Adam Brownstone (Cardozo law student)Because the competition encourages participation by students involved in various fields of study representing each university, previous Einstein teams have included medical and law students, as well as undergraduate students from Yeshiva University. This year’s included Oren Mayer, who became the first Einstein Ph.D. student to take part in the EGHCC. He joined co-captains Arjun Seth and Lediana Goduni, both fourth-year medical students and previous participants in the EGHCC, along with first-year medical students Maha Haqqani and Jamie Leonard and third-year Cardozo law student Adam Brownstone.
During the week before their trip to Atlanta, Einstein team members applied their unique perspectives in law, medicine, public health, research, mental health and global health to the problem they were to solve.
“Since team members knew little about the topic when they started, there was the need for frantic research,” noted Mr. Seth. “We looked through the literature, spoke to physicians and obstetricians in India, and consulted Einstein faculty as well as Montefiore staff members and fellows to better understand the causes of fistulas and the major barriers to treating them.”
In just five days, they absorbed information on the epidemiological, logistical, surgical, social and governmental factors surrounding fistulas and their treatment in India.
Their original idea proposal focused on improving transportation and medical facilities in rural parts of India, but the night before their presentation the team decided to offer a different approach. They created “For the Mother, For the Child,” a social media campaign designed to combat stigma around and raise awareness about obstetric fistulas in India.
Going with the new plan turned out to be a good move. “We really impressed the judges with our plan,” recalled Mr. Mayer. “One of the judges commented that it was surprising that in today's modern culture, only one team thought to use social media to solve this problem.”
Doing Their Homework
Mr. Mayer, who worked for several years in the international branch of the Global AIDS Program, attributed the team’s success to the broad perspectives of its members, noting, “The diversity of our team, not just in academic backgrounds but also in life experiences, allowed us to analyze issues in ways that went beyond what a single person is able to see.”
Based on his own previous work in international public health, Mr. Mayer offered insights into the nuances of working with international governments, along with suggestions on how the team might implement its plans.
Mr. Brownstone, the team’s law expert, interpreted India’s Constitution and showed how it protected people wishing to raise awareness about obstetric fistulas.
And Mr. Seth, who has a personal connection to India, was able to give the team a unique insight into how they could get the Indian Army to assist them—another approach not presented by other teams.
Back For More
When asked what students take away from the annual challenge, Jill Raufman, director of Einstein’s Global Health Fellowship Program, said, “The competition offers them an opportunity to examine global health problems from a truly interdisciplinary approach, which is more of a real-life approach. And every year they tell me it’s one of the best learning experiences they’ve had. Arjun and Lediana had taken part as first-years and were eager to return.”
“Arjun and I had an outstanding experience the first time and, because we had participated before, we had some perspective on what could work well for the team this time around,” said Ms. Goduni.
Added Mr. Seth, “Just like last time, we worked hard, met our deadlines, had fun and presented a solution that we’re extremely proud of.”
On May 23, the team gathered once more to present their EHGCC experience and what they learned from it to members of the Einstein community.
Posted on: Wednesday, June 1, 2016