Insights from the Midwest Universities for Global Health 5.0 Meeting: Better Together

December 18, 2018

By Aishwarya Nagar, MPH Student and Global Health Center Student Advisory Committee (GHSAC) President, and, Mackenzie Robinson, MPH Student, GHSAC Communications Director

The Goldfarb School of Nursing hosted the “Midwest Universities for Global Health 5.0: Better Together” conference December 6-7, 2018, successfully bringing together a diverse array of individuals and institutions who are passionate about global health issues. The conference facilitated discussions around numerous topics of interest to our local and international global health communities: the experiences of immigrants and refugees, the national opioid crisis, tackling health disparities, best practices in global health education, climate change, and planetary health.

Attendees were treated to the screening of “Day One”, a documentary-style film about the Nahed Chapman New American Academy, which is a transition school for recently resettled refugee children within St. Louis’ public school system. The film follows students, teachers and administrators as they navigate the unique cultural, economic, and psychological challenges faced by forcibly displaced children here in St. Louis. After the screening, several students and administrators from the film served on a panel discussion about their experiences, followed by a presentation about the unique stressors and health outcomes faced by refugee children in St. Louis. Afterwards, attendees engaged in a networking gathering, where they could meet peers who are passionate about specific topics within global health. This was followed by the official launch of the Women in Global Health Midwest chapter, organized by Dr. Caline Mattar and featuring Dr. Roopa Dhatt, the founder of Women in Global Health.

On Friday, attendees started the day with a rousing call to action by Executive Director of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health Dr. Keith Martin. Dr. Martin’s talk surrounded tackling health disparities through policy change. Dr. Rachel Winograd, assistant research professor, Missouri Institute of Mental Health, University of Missouri-St Louis, gave a poignant speech about the complexities of Missouri’s opioid crisis and discussed best practices and local efforts currently underway to address it.

This was followed by a panel discussion of innovative global health education and engagement strategies, featuring administrators from global health programs in the Midwest. After lunch and a poster session, attendees could choose to attend one of four breakout sessions to learn more about global health mentoring between faculty and students, meeting mental health needs, the transfer of innovation and resources between low, middle and high-income countries, and promotion of gender equity.

Dr. Debra Olson, Professor Emerita at the University of Minnesota, led the Promoting Gender Equity in Navigating Challenges and Potential Solutions breakout session where she talked about her experiences around the world and how they have shaped who she is today. She also emphasized the supportive role of both her personal and professional relationships in her success, and how students and public health practitioners should support one another in all aspects of our work. Said Dr. Olson, “It should not be called the ‘me too’ movement, but instead the ‘we too’ movement. We are all in this together and it is up to us to lift each other up.”

Mackenzie Robinson, GHSAC member and MPH candidate at the Brown School, co-facilitated the session with an exercise that illustrated the value of recognizing the influence of personal perspective when working with others.

The conference was concluded by a remarkably engaging panel on connecting planetary health, climate change, and global health. Through brief presentations and answers to questions, panelists explored the many complex and interdisciplinary perspectives on planetary health: scientific evidence, local public health initiatives, market-based approaches, and the emergence of one-health. The session emphasized an urgent need to curb climate change impacts for the sake of the planet, and provided a tangible insight into how various countries, sectors, and industries must work together to do so.

Dr. William G. Powderly provided astute concluding remarks and the metaphorical conference ‘baton’ was passed to University of Madison-Wisconsin, which is hosting the conference next year.

Through its use of a variety of platforms such as film screenings, World Café discussions, panels, lectures and break-out sessions, the conference successfully engaged attendees in much-needed discussions about critical global health issues.