Global Health Challenge: Ready, Set, Brainstorm!
Solving complex global health problems requires in-depth research, unconventional thinking and effective powers of persuasion. In March, an eclectic team of Einstein students and a student from Yeshiva University’s Cardozo Law School will employ all these skills at the 2018 International Emory Global Health Case Competition. They will join approximately 30 other student teams from universities and colleges worldwide at Atlanta’s Emory University, to see which teams can address a given global health dilemma in the most compelling manner.
Members of the 2018 Emory competition team (from left): Lucy Oh, Thammatat “Juwee” Vorawandthanachai, Shacelles Bonner, Daniel Sinasohn, Niloy Jafar Iqbal and Nadira Ahmed
“‘It was incredible—one of the best learning experiences I’ve ever had!’—that’s the response every single year, without fail,” said Jill Raufman, director of Einstein’s Global Health Fellowship program, , who oversees the students’ participation. “They form friendships and bonds—not only with their fellow teammates, but with participants from other schools. It’s a great way to learn how to use each other’s expertise.”
Learning to apply research to real-world problems is one of the hallmarks of an Einstein education. The competitors must offer sophisticated analyses and creatively devised solutions and present them clearly. The effort highlights the value of collaborating with experts from other fields.
Each team must represent at least three disciplines. This year, medical students will work with Ph.D. candidates in Einstein’s graduate division and in its Medical Scientist Training Program, and a law student. (Previous years have included students with a master’s in public health, Ph.D. candidates at Yeshiva’s Ferkauf School of Psychology and undergraduates from Yeshiva’s Sy Syms School of Business.)
Every year, the chosen problem for the competition is announced less than a week in advance. The team members must then read the case, research the topic, brainstorm innovative solutions, fly to Atlanta and spend an intense workday polishing their efforts, and then present their ideas to the judges.
Perspectives and Strategies
Last year’s competition involved children’s mental-health problems in Liberia, requiring the teams to address a broad range of factors—medical, social, economic, cultural, political, and historical. Another year, the topic was reducing gun violence in Honduras.
Each team member contributes a different perspective. Delia Shen, now in her second year at Einstein, said last year’s team began studying sample cases months in advance. “During that preparation,” she said, “we tried to figure out our team’s style, so once the actual case was released, we had our game plan in mind. We divided up the work according to our skills. We wanted to keep ourselves organized and accountable.”
The 2017 Emory competition team, in Atlanta (from left, front): Katherine Wu, Tushara Surapaneni, Delia Chen and Rama Rasheed Yakubu; (from left, rear): Mohammod Arafat and Paul JohnstonSome participants arrive with global-health experience. Thammatat “Juwee” Vorawandthanachai is a first-year student on the 2018 squad. Raised in Thailand, he has made healthcare trips to Nicaragua and Honduras. “Because I speak Spanish,” he said, “I could ask about their health practices and what the communities need. I also studied in Chile and learned about its healthcare system.” He realizes that dealing with global health problems requires a truly open mind; the American perspective on healthcare is only one of many. “One thing my travel has taught me,” Juwee said, “is the need for cultural sensitivity.”
Other competitors, such as Delia, find the competition opens new horizons. “I figured this was a good opportunity to learn more about global health. It was also a chance to think outside the box and participate in something interactive and team-based.” After competing, she did health work in Uganda over the summer through Einstein’s Global Health Fellowship program.
Members are chosen by the previous year’s team; Ms. Raufman feels they’re best suited to pick their successors. “Delia said it was very cool to have an opportunity to meet other people who were interested in global health and work together in an innovative way,” said Juwee. Competition for places on the team grows fiercer every year, Ms. Raufman noted.
Faculty members can help by critiquing the “practice runs” and sharing their expertise, for once the competition topic is divulged, the students’ search for information goes into overdrive. “It’s a superb mentoring opportunity for everyone from faculty members to librarians,” said Ms. Raufman. (Anyone wishing to work with this year’s team is welcome to contact Ms. Raufman.)
Following each competition, the team members present their findings at Einstein. “These teams work so hard and produce incredible presentations,” said Ms. Raufman. “When they return, we invite them to share their work with the Einstein community. We’re really hoping to have a terrific turnout this year,” she added. (Watch Inside Einstein and the online calendar for details when this year’s team will make their presentation!)
Posted on: Wednesday, January 17, 2018