I was fortunate to be part of a group of Western Health Studies students who were selected to attend the Global Health and Innovations Conference held at Yale University. I “needed” to go to this conference because I have been extremely interested in Global Health, development and poverty ever since I witnessed real poverty on an international experience. Despite my interest I had no real idea how I could build a career in Global Health or what issues the Global Health community was actually tackling today. At the conference I was able to get a good handle on what other students, experts and leaders in the field were doing. I learned about their successes and the challenges that they still face.
Not only did the conference give me a better idea of where I could focus and direct my future efforts, I was actually able to apply what I have learned from lectures to practical use. Who knew that was possible? In all honestly, on the way to the conference I suddenly realized that I, a second year student, was on my way to a conference with international leaders, Yale and Harvard educators and a vast array of other extremely impressive people. I feared that I might have absolutely no idea what these people were talking about – But I was able to understand, appreciate and apply what I have learned from my program to what they had to say.
As I was speaking with other students at the conference, the importance of one specific reoccurring theme really struck me. This was the idea that innovations do not necessarily have to be the newest thing or a technological development but rather innovative systems and methods to tackle problems experienced in the health field and beyond. By creating better systems to implement and use the vast knowledge and technology that we already have, we can tackle issues more efficiently and effectively. One example was that we technically know how to solve poverty. If we can provide sanitation, adequate water, food, shelter, education, health care, equality…etc (you know the drill HS!) then we can be much closer to overcoming extreme poverty. Today, there is a lot being done by organizations, NGOs and Governments agencies to improve the lives and health of many communities around the world. However their efforts are in isolation of each other and this is not the best way to solve the issue. If we could develop a comprehensive, holistic system were all agencies can work efficiently together, we would be more likely to solve poverty.
My experience at the conference was extremely impacted by the other Western students who came to the conference. I think one thing that I have missed out on in University thus far is not interacting with upper years. This experience allowed me to interact and make new friends with Western Health Studies students from all years. I really enjoyed speaking to the upper years. I learned more from them than I expected. They introduced me to concepts and themes that I have not been exposed to yet in my studies. I got to hear, engage and learn from their perspectives on what we experienced at the conferences as well as the health science program at Western. I feel this aspect of the conference experience was just as beneficial and important to my experience as the conference itself.
Lastly I would like to give a shout out to Tara Chen and Emma Scotchner who put together this amazing experience for 46 Health Studies Students. Without their hard work and dedication we would not have gotten to have this unforgettable trip. I hope that there will be more experiences like this one for Western students in the future.