My experience attending the Global Health and Innovations Conference at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut was nothing short of extraordinary. While I attended many talks on a variety of topics centered around global health issues, I’d like to expand on the two talks that resonated with me the most.
The first was a talk by Gary Cohen, the founder and president of Healthcare Without Harm. Gary talked about the scary reality of our environment being linked with our health. We’re basically conducting an uncontrolled chemical experiment on our children and ourselves just by consuming foods plagued with chemicals. The current food system is linked with chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, obesity and diabetes just to name a few. Since many of us are already aware of this connection, why aren’t we advocating for a change? We need to look at healthy foods as being our medicine rather than treating patients with medication because of diseases brought on by food itself. The main message here is that we cannot expect to have healthy people when we’re living on a sick planet.
The second talk I would like to write about was a talk on the topic of bioethical challenges of practicing medicine in the developing world. The talk was given by Dr. Aron Rose from Yale University. Dr. Rose is an ophthalmologist who practices in New Haven, Connecticut as well as across the world in locations such as India, Bhutan and Mongolia. Dr. Rose spoke of the harsh conditions of these countries, the lack of proper equipment and medical knowledge. Practicing in the developing world means facing questions such as “how do we select those most deserving of scarce surgical services?” because at the end of the day, you cannot treat everyone. There is major difficulty in not being able to guarantee the ethical principle of “do no harm” in an environment with poor equipment and no follow up.
I really appreciated his honesty as he mentioned how much discussion on practicing medicine in the developing world is talked about from such a positive, uplifting, “we’re going to save the world” perspective. The truth is that while this work is gratifying, it isn’t for everyone. Dr. Rose said that if he could do it all over again, he wasn’t sure that he would choose this path as it has brought much sadness into his life and shown him the reality of other parts of the world we often turn a blind eye towards. That being said, it is no less noble to help those in our own countries and places with established healthcare infrastructure if we find that the extreme work isn’t for us. At the end of the day, there will always be a multitude of people that cannot be helped but there should never be any hard feelings over simply putting a drop into the ocean. If we do work that comes from the heart and continue to openly discuss these global issues here at home with our peers and colleagues, I think it’s a big step towards helping the world as much as we possibly can.
The GHIC is a wonderful experience that really opens you up to new perspectives and makes you think about issues you may have overlooked before. I would recommend this conference to anyone that has a real passion towards health and wants to see change in this world.