Northwestern chosen to compete in global health summit

Jillian Sandler

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A team of Northwestern students from the Feinberg School of Medicine’s Center for Global Health has been selected to attend Emory University’s Global Health Case competition in March.

The team, which had its first meeting Tuesday night, was selected for the first time along with teams from 19 other schools to go to the event, which will take place March 31 in Atlanta. The team is comprised of five students with an interest in global health from several schools across the University. The students were chosen based on recommendations from professors.

According to Daniel Young, Feinberg associate director for global health education, the team of students will be presented with a case study detailing a real-world global health issue and tasked with creating a presentation and multidisciplinary approach to fix the problem. Last year, the competition gave students a case in which African nations were faced with civil crises near their borders as well as budget cuts in East Africa’s branch of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, an organization that helps to rectify issues involving refugees. Teams from Emory, Dartmouth College, Rice University and University of California, San Francisco devised the winning proposals.

Young added the competition is beneficial for NU due to the emphasis on taking an interdisciplinary approach to global health issues, something University officials have discussed.

“We were attracted to the interdisciplinary (nature) of the conference and thought it would be in line with NU’s strategic plan,” he said.

According to one member of the five-student team, Weinberg senior Chris Miller, the team’s meeting Tuesday allowed the members to acquaint themselves with each other’s strengths and weaknesses. He said this will help them refine their interdisciplinary approach in the competition.

“It was great to get to know what people are good at and where they can help out most,” he said.

Another team member, Melissa Latigo, who grew up in Kenya, said her personal history has driven her interest in global health.

“I’ve always been passionate about health systems improvement back in those areas, and for me, this is a chance to work with other students who are passionate about global health issues as well,” the fourth-year Feinberg student said.

Along with Latigo and Miller, the team consists of fourth-year Feinberg student Mitra Afshari, Kellogg and McCormick student Shantanu Jani and Kellogg student Kaushik Seethapathy.

Latigo said she is especially interested in working with the team, which will engage in team-building activities and practice case studies before the competition, to determine how to solve problems on a large scale.

“I’m interested in the macro level – I’m more looking at the overall system and how to improve it and all the components that fit together,” Latigo said. “Understanding (how to do that) will require a business skill set and a skill set in public health. I think this competition will give me appreciation for how to solve problems at the macro level.”

Latigo added she and Afshari traveled to Uganda with Kellogg’s Global Health Initiative, where program participants, including business and biomedical engineering students, learned to engineer diagnostic devices for AIDS. Afshari said experiences like these have peaked her interest in global health issues.

“I’ve been lucky enough to have traveled during medical school to many different countries, and the more I travel, the more I become interested in global health and wanting to contribute to the different causes,” she said.

Overall, Young said the opportunity to attend this competition will be a learning experience.

“(The team members) get to work with students they wouldn’t otherwise work with,” he said. “This is something that’s definitely in line with NU’s new strategic plan: trying to work across schools and programs and give them opportunities to network and give them hands-on experience.”

jilliansandler2014@u.northwestern.edu

Editor’s note: This article incorrectly spelled a source’s last name. The article has been changed to reflect the correction. The Daily regrets the error.

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