KILN scholars, Chiamaka Okorie and Nina Wujech, attended the Unite for Sight Global Health and Innovation Conference (GHIC) held at Yale University during March 28-29, 2015. Chiamaka and Nina shared their experiences and thoughts of the conference:
By Chiamaka Okorie, CSON ‘17
I enjoyed a virtual travel experience to Ghana, Togo, Rwanda, Nigeria, Armenia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Haiti through the “Unite for Sight Global Health and Innovation Conference.” The beauty of global health is its ability to unite people from all backgrounds, so I was able to learn about current obstacles and diseases from technological, anthropological, economic, and scientific points of views.
Three speakers especially changed and challenged my understanding of global health. The first was Joia Mukherjee, Chief Medical Officer of Partners in Health, who was a keynote speaker. She stressed the unappreciated concept that prevention alone is not enough and our obligation is to strengthen the delivery of medical care in order to ensure healthcare as a right. I was particularly moved by her parallel of the HIV/AIDS movement to the march on Selma and her belief in unity as the fuel of change. Another keynote speaker, Aron Rose, MD, who is an associate clinical professor at Yale University School of Medicine and School of Nursing, spoke about the gratification and hazards of volunteer service abroad, which was particularly relevant to me. He was very realistic about the damage volunteers could do to their host community or their mental strength, despite their best intentions. He did not say this to discourage service abroad, but to advise volunteers about receiving true meaning from their experience. He beautifully explained that international service is a relentless mirror of self and for one to discern his/her sense of purpose, one must continuously cultivate humility.
Finally, I participated in a pediatric care interactive workshop by Hema Magge, Director of Pediatrics, Partners in Health/Rwanda. She shared Partners in Health’s efforts to reduce neonatal mortality in Rwanda then asked the audience to develop a care plan. My group was tasked with creating an evaluation system. Just the first step of deciding what to evaluate led to a long list of questions ranging from “Does the hospital have sufficient equipment?” to “How acceptable is this program to the local community”? This was a great hands-on exercise that helped me view a real situation through the critical lens of a global health worker and imagine how I would respond.
I truly enjoyed the opportunity to attend an event dedicated to a single mission: healthcare as a basic human right. I was exposed to so many people who tackled obstacles with optimism to achieve an equal healthcare and innovative solutions. I was joined by a wonderful and insightful KILN scholar, Nina Wujech, who pushed me to seek more information about the processes and people that carry out such solutions, which sometimes seem too lofty to accomplish. I am very grateful to the KILN program for providing me with this opportunity to expand my understanding and appreciation of global health. I hope to return to this conference again as part of, or in front of, an audience.
By Nina Wujech, GCSON ‘15:
This is my second consecutive year of attendance and it certainly is refreshing to be in the midst of people who have similar passion and drive. The conference began with phenomenal keynote addresses from some of the finest entrepreneurs and innovators in the industry. The first keynote speaker was Ned Breslin, CEO of Water For People. His address was on “What Project Runway Teaches Us about Creativity, Discomfort and Entrepreneurial Success.” He indicated that the winners of the show are those who can “get out of their comfort zone” and “push the edges.” He also said, “The judges are one’s friends.” If one can take criticism constructively and work hard, one will succeed. I also attended several workshops later on during the day and was able to network with speakers like Maggie Ehrenfried of LifeNet International, whose organization partners with foreign private hospitals to improve access and care. I look forward to partnering with them in the near future.
On the second day of the conference, the most memorable keynote speaker was Agnes Binagwaho, MD, Honorable Minister of Health of Rwanda. It was inspirational to see an African leader who not only has a vision for her country’s health but is succeeding in all of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) established by the United Nations. She shared the steps she is utilizing to achieve the goals, which include: 1) shifting mindsets; 2) galvanizing support from government officials; 3) engaging the community and giving them ownership; 4) conducting monthly meetings to re-evaluate goals; 5) using a results oriented approach; and 6) recognizing human health as a right.
I attended this conference because I am passionate about improving health access and quality in my home country, Cameroon. I work with the Patcha Foundation in Cameroon, where we deliver free screenings and provide healthcare access to thousands of Cameroonians. At the conference, I sought ways to improve our program sustainability and will be sharing this information back with my team. As a soon-to-be family nurse practitioner, this conference will also influence the work I do locally. There are several vulnerable populations around us and this conference teaches creative ways to improve access and quality in resource-poor settings.