Blog Global Health Center

Reflections on the 2019 International Emory Global Health Case Competition

Written by Aishwarya Nagar, MPH ’19 at the Brown School and members of the competition cohort

A group of Washington University in St. Louis students recently participated in the 2019 International Emory Global Health Case Competition organized by Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. This renowned case competition brought together students from multiple universities and disciplines to develop innovative solutions to a contemporary global health problem.

This year’s case challenged participants to implement innovative hurricane disaster preparedness strategies in a changing global climate from the perspective of the Dominican Republic, Japan, Madagascar, Mexico, or the Philippines.

I had the distinct pleasure of leading Washington University’s interdisciplinary team, which consisted of five outstanding graduate and undergraduate students representing the Brown School (Kate MacLachlan & myself, MPH Global Health), Arts & Sciences (Danni Yang, BA in Economics & Helene Jow, BA in International and Area Studies), and Olin Business School (Ruby Varghese, MBA/MPH).

Our team was selected from winners and first runners-up from the 2018 Global Injustice Case Competition, and from recommendations provided by specific faculty and staff. The Global Health Center at the Institute for Public Health supported and sponsored our group’s participation in this prestigious case competition, where we were competing against 30 American, Canadian, and Australian universities.

All teams delivered a 15-minute pitch of their proposal during the first round, and winners from each country group presented again for the second round. Prior to presenting, teams spent a “Working Day” together to refine their pitch and work with a case advisor on perfecting their proposal. Our team was tasked with devising a hurricane disaster preparedness proposal for Mexico, which already has an impressive centralized disaster response system.

We proposed establishing a comprehensive local-level network of super-promotores (akin to lay community health workers) with the aim of targeting vulnerable populations, mainstreaming gender equity and indigenous rights, and targeting all stages of the disaster response & management cycle. Our proposal incorporated task shifting, low-tech innovations, cross-sectoral public-private partnerships, capacity building, social and infrastructural resilience, One Health perspectives, and other best practices found in global health. It also made liberal use of puns, much to the delight of our judges.

Although our team did not progress into the final round, we were tremendously proud of our proposal. It represented what we envision as the future of global health: transdisciplinary, evidence-based, and equity-driven. Opportunities like this competition are an excellent way to engage emerging young professionals through a platform that promotes creativity and critical thinking in a transdisciplinary setting. Two members of my team share their reflection on the experience:

“As an undergraduate student, the opportunity to participate in the Emory Global Health Case Competition (EGHCC) was an invaluable way to network with leaders in public health and learn about all of the different industries that contribute to healthcare and disaster relief management. I enjoyed working with fellow WashU students from different backgrounds and schools. For me, EGHCC highlighted the importance of having these interdisciplinary voices at the table when moving forward in public health” – Danni Yang

“Coming from WashU’s MBA program, Emory’s Global Health Case Competition was an important lesson in interdisciplinary collaboration. Formulating solutions to complex issues, such as disaster relief across nations, takes an entire village (no pun intended) comprised of not only emergency managers but also data scientists, accountants, and everyday community members. Although I am primarily surrounded by business students at Olin, Emory’s Global Health Case competition reminded me of the value that lies in interprofessional communication.”

Ruby Varghese

The organizers should also be commended for their excellence in putting together an event of this magnitude, and for integrating so many local public health leaders as judges and case advisors. While case competitions are already action-packed, there is something exhilarating about solving complex global health issues across the street from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Our team deeply appreciates all the support we received from the Office of the Provost, the Institute for Public Health’s Global Health Center and Brown School, in pursuing this exciting opportunity. I look forward to seeing future generations of Washington University students participating in this case competition and bringing home that comically large winner’s check!