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Positioning Global Health for greater impact in the “Here and Next”: Reflections from the 9th Annual Global Health Conference

Written by Baffour Boaten Boahen-Boaten, MPH candidate, Brown School and chair of the Global Health Student Advisory Committee

2023 Global Health Conference Panel 4: “Digital Transformations in Global Health Settings” featuring senior investigators and moderated by Victor Davila-Roman, director of the Global Health Center

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected through different facets of globalization, the understanding of health and diseases is rapidly evolving beyond the boundaries of culture and physical geography. Global health, therefore, becomes the future of health. This theme resonated within a variety of fascinating presentations and talks taking place over two days, March 30-31, at the 9th Annual Global Health Conference. This overarching theme tied in with the objective of the conference, to bring the Washington University community together to highlight and catalyze global health activities to support Washington University’s Here and Next Strategic Plan.

The keynote address by Mary McKay, PhD, the vice provost for Interdisciplinary Initiatives set the conference tone as it touched on the centrality of global health in the Here and Next Strategic Plan. The plan’s global health focus includes a globally informed, community-driven vision for greater impact and distinction for the university. McKay’s speech highlighted Washington University in St Louis as the ideal place to marshal innovative research and applied education to address global health challenges.

The first day of the conference featured presentations under two broad categories: Digital Health in Global Health, and, Global Health Collaborations between the Washington University Danforth Campus and the Washington University School of Medicine. There were captivating presentations from a mix of early-stage and senior investigators from the Brown School, Institute for Public Health, School of Medicine and the NIH.  The second day of the conference featured presentations under the broad categories of WUSTL’s Global Community Partnerships and, Environment and Global Health. Engaging presentations highlighted research with applied significance from a mix of early-stage research investigators and senior investigators from across the WashU community. Personally, I was fascinated by the innovative and cutting-edge scientific approaches used to tackle diverse global health issues.

One of the highlights of the conference was the screening of the documentary, Offering Hope which sought to offer a visual chronicling of the foundation and growth of the multiple grantee and research center, International Center for Child Health and Development (ICHAD). The compelling documentary interspersed the personal life narratives of center Founding Director, Fred Ssewamala, PhD, of the Brown School, with the positive impact that ICHAD is making in in alleviating poverty and implementing grassroots public health Ugandan communities. The documentary was followed by an engaging discussion with Proscovia Nabunya, PhD, also Brown School faculty, who has been involved with ICHAD since its inception. She helped unpack the center’s work as it gears up for its 10th anniversary.

In relating my personal intrigue about the huge volume of global health research conducted here at WashU, Angela Brown, MD responded with something worth sharing here: the GH Conference will bolster the position of Global Health here at WashU. The university community does not fully grasp the volume or breadth of the global health work it does. As a global leader, WashU must harmonize and continue to advance this work.

Awards were given in recognition of works of distinction.

Outstanding Oral Abstract Award

  • Sara Malone, PhD, Department of Surgery, Public Health Sciences, School of Medicine on  “Measuring Communication Quality in Global Pediatric Oncology”

Outstanding Poster Award

  • Flora Cohen, PhD Candidate – Social Work, Brown School on “Implementation of a Psychosocial Support Intervention for Refugees in Uganda”.

These are indeed exciting times for the WashU Global Health community.

The 2023 Global Health Conference was supported by the Office of the Provost (Here and Next), Brown School, McDonnell International Scholars Academy, the Global Health Center, Institute for Public Health, Department of Medicine, and the Global Health Student Advisory Committee.