As I look at the Yale University hooded sweatshirt I had purchased during my visit to New Haven, Connecticut I cannot help but stop for a moment and reflect on how I obtained it. The hoodie is now a souvenir, a reminder, and a promise to myself. On March 27, 2015 I had the opportunity to travel to New Haven, Connecticut, USA and attend the Unite for Sight’s Global Health & Innovation Conference (GHIC) from March 28th to 29th with my fellow Health Studies’ students, and with special credit going to the Health Sciences Students’ Association for funding a substantial portion of the trip. At the conference I was exposed to different perspectives from fellow participants and presenters from all around the world and the experiences I gained are invaluable.
One particular session I immensely enjoyed out of the two days was the GHIC Innovation Prize Semifinalists’ pitches to win $10,000 or $5,000 for first place and second place, respectively. For an hour and a half I sat and watched, listened, and pondered to 21 presentations about innovative ways to tackle our world’s issues: regionally, nationally, and internationally. The pitches were unique, well thought out, and inspirational! The innovations ranged from creating new technological systems to medical prototypes. Each idea, not only the top two pitches, was specific and reflective on the profession of the presenter and their passion. That association between profession and innovation made me wonder, can people who are generalists be specialists? The question was answered when the top innovation was announced, which was Miraclefeet Brace an interdisciplinary group striving to resolve the prevalence of clubfoot in pediatric patients. Engineering, public health, medicine and entrepreneurship were all involved. These pitches showcased not only specific ideas about changing the world but also that an idea needs stakeholders from all relevant disciplines who share the same vision as you.
After the conference was finished my mind went to those semi-finals. My body was tingling from the new ideas rushing through my head. I then told myself, “I want to be innovative too!” This conference was both inspirational and educational; moreover, as a 4th year health studies student it was highly applicable. Throughout every single session, in my mind, I was thanking all the professors who taught me at Western University. The theoretical knowledge I had gained over the past four years was applied onto a global scale. I was not lost when the presenters spoke, nor was I lost when all these ideas entered my mind. And as I walked alongside some of the century-old gothic style buildings I realized that all the people who attended the conference are innovators in their own light. Once I graduate I want to find a way to apply my health sciences skills and any relevant GHIC innovations into my hometown of Iqaluit, Nunavut or somewhere in the world, hopefully as a public health advocate and professional.