This past March, five Northwestern students traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to compete in the Emory Global Health Case Competition. The diverse team, which was comprised of students hailing from Feinberg School of Medicine, Kellogg School of Management, and Weinberg College were tasked with creating an initiative to address mental health issues in Liberia. With a small budget and limited time constraints, the students had to pilot their mentoring program “Da Me” (Liberian English for It’s Me) in a nation ravished by mental health stigma, gender inequality, and a recent civil war. The team believed that Liberian women, survivors of rape and mourning the loss of family members during the recent civil war, would benefit the most from mental health programming . Thus, the program “put girls first” says Kellogg student Ferrona Lie, and worked to reduce mental health stigma and increase support for those who experienced trauma from recent events and those suffering from mental illness.
While the team did not place at the competition, Ferrona Lie and Sedoo Ijir both felt that they learned a lot from their experience. Lie, originally from Indonesia, felt that the skills she acquired from the competition furthered her goals to develop medical devices which will impact countries in need of better healthcare. While she commends American global health actors for their work in Africa, she urges key players to expand their impact to the far reaches of the world: namely, southeast Asia. But unfortunately, just as the case competition provided the team a limited budget, she feels that she does not currently have the financial resources to make an impact quite yet.
Sedoo Ijir, a Global Health Studies student, said herself “In our global health classes we critique…a lot. But when you are actually coming up with the initiative yourself, you have to take into account time constraints, target populations, government regulations, among other factors. Unfortunately, sacrifices have to be made. I think that is why no global health program is without flaw or need for critique.” Ijir said the team struggled over the budget and time constraints which forced them to develop only a year long pilot program in the city of Monrovia, which had minimal research efforts to ensure the program was effective. Ijir highlights that these issues reflect broader challenges in the field of global health. As she aspires to return to her parents’ home country of Nigeria to pursue global health work, she feels sure that the Emory case competition and her studies through the Global Health Studies program will allow her to more effectively address these obstacles. “This is how it [global health] works” Ijir claims “but this is not to say that is how it should work.”