The Global Health and Innovation Conference was organized by Unite of Site, a non-profit organization that provides eye clinics for millions of individuals worldwide. This conference was created to exchange ideas across all disciplines of global health around the world and featured many NGO's, medical students, surgeons, nurse practitioners, and other healthcare professionals, including the Rwanda Minister of Health. Having the opportunity to be one of the few students chosen to attend, the conference provided me with insight on how essential networking can be in broadening one’s understanding of global health. It was interesting to see how brilliant the ideas presented were and how they were able to contribute to a better world. People were able to share their own experiences to expand on the various topics of discussion. This conference provided me with extensive knowledge, along with inspiration by various speakers such as Joia Mukerjee, Agnes Binagwaho, and Alexi Mathosek.
I will expand more on the program Alexi Mathosek's presented at the GHIC conference as he won the second place prize of $5,000. People who live in the mountains in Haiti are disadvantaged. They don't have good harvests and suffer more than valley people. Due to high amount of manual labour, many people from the mountain areas suffer from surgical disease such as hernias, joint disease and other diseases that need surgical care. Though care is available at the local hospital, it is difficult for mountain people to find access to this service and one of the main reasons why is because most of the mountain people are illiterate. A program was created by Mathosek and his team using patient navigators and community health workers to address this issue. They started by hosting screening days at the mountains and trained community health workers to identify patients who are from the mountain area and needed surgery then patient navigators guided them on how to get help at the hospital. This increased the surgical rate by 4x on elective cases. A story he shared with us at the conference was about a young boy that came into the clinic who had a huge mass on his back that could easily be removed by a simple surgery. This mass had changed this boy's life, drastically. His father left his family due to this health issue, thus rendering no one to provide for his own family. Although it was simply a cosmetic surgery, it was essentially becoming a life altering surgery as the boy’s father decided to come back after the mass was removed. After they receive the surgery, they get followed up by trained health workers with mobile phones that have a custom application that follows these patients. The application allows them to fill out a survey of questions on symptoms and infections and to take photographs of the incisions to get reviewed by the research team and surgeons. This program has had a huge success rate, with over 350 patients enrolled.
It was empowering to hear Mathosek speak about the work he has done for the mountain people while still working at the hospital in Boston. It humbled me to know that despite having such a prestigious job, he felt the need to give back to the community in Haiti. It taught me that in order to make the most out of your chosen occupation; one must make sacrifices such as stepping out of your comfort zone and even family time. This conference helped me gain insight on pending issues that I had not thought of before, such as surgical care in remote areas. I am so used to hearing about issues such as clean water and sanitation, or lack of health care but not in depth focuses on the impact of specific issues and their solutions. I learned the importance of personal experience in having a positive impact on another individual’s life thus solidifying my rationale for proceeding to go to volunteer at a hospital in Kenya this summer. It is important to go out to the disadvantaged parts of the world and experience firsthand the steps needed to take to make improvements. Experiences like the ones by Alexi Mathosek whom have changed the world and have pushed to me to continue pursing changes in global health.