Guest Bloggers

  1. Emory Adventure: Finding Global Health Solutions for Central America

    April 3, 2015 by Guest Bloggers

    By guest blogger Eleanor Burgess

    Photo Credit: Emory GHI (@emoryghi) | Twitter

    Photo Credit: Emory GHI (@emoryghi) | Twitter

    Few settings are more suited for developing Global Health solutions than Emory University, and the Northwestern team made the most of our experience there at the 2015 International Global Health Case Competition. The cherry trees were in full bloom, and petals fell softly through the air as all 24 teams from the United States, Denmark, and Australia walked from our tour of the CDC to our Friday workday locations. We experienced a taste of the South, enjoying biscuits and grits for breakfast, and Southern comfort food for dinner including baked beans, pulled pork, banana pudding and of course lots of sweet tea.

    The case stretched us to the limit: we had only a week to solve the pervasive problem of Gun Violence in Honduras.This interesting case was outside of our medical experiences, but ultimately allowed us to dive into the difficult social, economic, and health situation in Honduras. Our solution targeted new gang-member recruitment in Honduras to stop the vicious cycle of violence. We proposed a multi-pronged solution, and our Saturday morning presentation was selected as one of the four final round presentations! Myself and my all-girl team of four intelligent ladies, Katie Kunstman, Kori Cooper, Shweta Hosakoppal, and Marine Coste, presented our final round solution to a huge room full of all the other teams and a panel of eight judges. After our presentation, we had to think quickly on our feet to answer the judges’ tough questions to the best of our knowledge and ability.

    After a reception spent networking with fellow participants, we found out we had been awarded fourth place and that we had won some money for our efforts. This experience was intense, occasionally stressful, and exciting throughout the process. I am glad that I had this opportunity, and I thank Northwestern for covering the flight costs so my whole team could compete in this intellectual and extremely interesting competition. I wish good luck to next year’s Northwestern team participants.

  2. Equipping Dominican HIV providers with the tools for best patient care

    August 13, 2014 by Guest Bloggers

    Guest post by Dr. Ramona Bhatia, Clinical Research Associate, Center for Global Health, and Instructor of Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine

    The Project CURE shipping container arriving at the Clínica de Familia La Romana

    Arrival of the Project CURE shipping container at Clínica de Familia La Romana

    Physicians such as myself practicing in high-income countries are privileged to utilize the latest medical technologies for patient care. In the majority of healthcare settings globally, however, even the most basic medical supplies, such as gloves, gowns, and gurneys, are limited, and more sophisticated technologies are exceedingly rare.

    In my role as a global health clinical researcher in the Center for Global Health at the Feinberg School of Medicine, I had the pleasure of traveling to the Clínica de Familia La Romana in October 2013. Located in the La Romana province in the southeastern part of the Dominican Republic, Clínica de Familia is the second largest HIV clinic in the country. It provides subsidized care to approximately 1,600 patients, including a large proportion of vulnerable Haitian migrants living in neighboring bateyes (sugarcane labor camps). My initial task was to develop and implement a Spanish-language training course on the latest HIV care updates for Clínica providers, but from my conversations with Clínica leadership and site visits I quickly realized that more than a care update was needed. A lack of medical equipment, such as an EKG for heart tracings, was preventing Clínica staff from providing the best care possible to their patients.

    The container was fully stocked with needed medical supplies

    The container: Fully stocked with needed medical supplies

    To address the supply shortage, the Center for Global Health, with support from Northwestern Memorial Hospital, formed a partnership with the not-for-profit group Project C.U.R.E. Project C.U.R.E. is the largest supplier of donated medical supplies to developing countries around the world. One of my responsibilities was to assist with the on-site Project C.U.R.E. needs assessments in the Clínica de Familia and neighboring hospitals, including one in Guyamate, a bateye and Northwestern University Access to Health site. Conducting detailed assessments was important to ensure that donated supplies would be needed and could feasibly be used. We interviewed providers for first-hand accounts of the supplies that were most needed and discussed logistics with Clínica leadership, including availability of regular maintenance for large equipment, proper storage facilities, and personnel to safely and effectively utilize certain technologies.

    Three months later, in January 2014, a large shipment of supplies was loaded onto a shipping container in Denver and set sail from Houston for the Dominican Republic. After travel and customs processing, the shipping container carrying tens of thousands of dollars worth of medical supplies arrived at the Clínica de Familia in July 2014. The community came together for the large undertaking of unloading the supplies at Clínica de Familia.

    Today, just a few weeks after the arrival of the shipment, providers are already utilizing some of equipment: The EKG machine is being used for heart rhythm examinations and the colposcopy equipment is set up to begin women’s health exams, all due to the targeted matching of supplies with the Clínica’s needs.

    We plan to return to La Romana next year with the first group of Feinberg medical students to engage in HIV and primary care medical rotations at the Clínica de Familia. I’m hoping to see these supplies contributing to a sustained improvement in health care for HIV patients in the La Romana community.

    Unloading the container: A community effort

    Unloading the container: A community effort

    CommunityEffort

    Clínica de Familia La Romana staff checking supplies

    Setting up the colposcopy machinery for women's health examinations

    Setting up the colposcopy machinery for women’s health examinations

  3. Youth have the power to shape the next era of global health and development

    April 18, 2014 by Guest Bloggers

    by Amee Amin – Anthropology, Global Health Studies, WCAS 2014

    Opening Keynote: Liana Woskie

    Opening Keynote: Liana Woskie

    A few weeks back I attended MIT’s Grassroots Initiatives for Global Health Conference, and I was very grateful to share some lessons on global health advocacy as a speaker during their break-out sessions. The conference brought together some amazing thought leaders in this field right now, like Jon Shaffer at Partners in Health, Liana Woskie of the Harvard Initiative on Global Health Quality, and Peter Luckow of Last Mile Health (Jon and Peter are both Northwestern alums). This conference stands out from many others for undergraduates because of its unique focus on bringing in an audience of current global health professionals. In my session alone, students were only half the audience.

    Diverse attendees and speakers engaged in challenging discussions about the history of the HIV/AIDS movement and how it lead to the current field of “global health,” how barriers of power and privilege have emerged outside and inside the field, and how students and professionals can begin to shift power in global health back to those directly affected. Below I share three powerful lessons learned:

    1. The HIV/AIDS movements, which began as a series of direct actions, became one of the most effective grassroots health movements in history.

    On the night of April 15, 1987, hundreds of people were filing last minute tax returns at the New York City General Post Office, when AIDS activists filled the building with their SILENCE=DEATH slogan. Their demonstration was widely broadcast over media and began to challenge the overwhelming public apathy towards the HIV/AIDS epidemic at that time. Out of indifference and hate, they created partnership and hope.

    Anyone who watched the HIV/AIDS movement unfold witnessed people take back power over their health and demand that decision-makers listen to those who were directly affected by the crisis. These direct actions and the political will they produced eventually led to the Global Fund and PEPFAR, which radically changed what was possible in the field of global health and development.

    2. However, the HIV/AIDS movement was almost two decades ago, and we have seen power insidiously re-centralized behind closed doors.

    The pharmaceutical and health insurance industry have spent more than $3 billion dollars combined over the last fifteen years. The industry’s main lobbying arm – The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhrMA) – by itself spent more than $200 million dollars over the last ten years on lobbying efforts (for comparison, that’s about 1.3 times greater than what the entire oil and gas industry spent on lobbying in 2011).

    Source: OpenSecrets.org - Center for Responsive Politics

    Source: OpenSecrets.org – Center for Responsive Politics

    Moreover, the pharmaceutical and health products industry spends more than every other U.S. industry on lobbying, and in 2012, the pharmaceutical industry alone spend about $440,000 per member of U.S. congress on lobbying. This money continues to push people into poverty due to health care costs and keep essential medicines out of reach from the world’s poor. Unless we shift public discourse from viewing health as a commodity to health as a human right, we will not see fairly priced and accessible medicines and healthcare technologies in our lifetime.

    3. Youth have the power to shape the next era of global health and development – and we need to seize this moment to raise our voices, engage in policy, and act in solidarity.

    Closing Keynote: Peter Luckow, Last Mile Health

    Closing Keynote: Peter Luckow, Last Mile Health

    One of the largest critiques of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was their failure to include voices from the marginalized populations that the goals aimed to serve. In its post-2015 thematic consultation paper, the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty stated, “the major limitation of the MDGs by 2015 was the lack of political will to implement due to the lack of ownership of the MDGs by the most affected constituencies”. Unfortunately, the post-2015 policymaking processes are also under fire for the same problems of accountability.

    During my break-out session, I spoke to an audience of young professionals about my engagement with Article 25, a new campaign working to generate grassroots momentum and public support for the right to health in the post-2015 agenda. This October 25th, we’re working with young activists across the globe to organize the first Global Day of Action for the Right to Health. Collective action will enable these groups and individuals to come together and show – for the first time – the true breadth and power of this right to health movement in order to hold politicians and policymakers accountable. Overall, the conference was an energizing experience and inspiring launch for the campaign.

  4. What does it look like to be a socially conscious business person?

    April 16, 2014 by Guest Bloggers

    This article was originally posted on the Northwestern Public Health Review (NPHR) Blog.

    by Annie Conderacci, Kellogg MBA student

    Do business interests have to conflict with those of the public good? In light of recent corporate scandal, greed, and corruption, I frequently ask myself this question. As a Social Enterprise major at Kellogg, I believe it is a firm no, but we future business leaders can do more to be better citizens.

    The desire to study socially responsible business lured me to Kellogg–while several MBA programs provide students with advanced management skills and functional knowledge, Kellogg’s Public-Private Initiative (KPPI) provides a socially-conscious MBA curriculum. Understanding the responsibility that comes with the power of leading major institutions, Northwestern’s faculty encourages its students to consider the social impact of the challenges and opportunities presented by an ever-changing, inter-connected world.

    NEF

    The intersection between business and policy fascinates me, particularly how both can work together to shape people’s lives. The Health and Human Rights course through KPPI was an opportunity for me to focus on public health, a crucible for public-private conflict and partnership. The course’s readings and lecture components focused on international health issues and the policies, programs, and business initiatives to combat them. In parallel, we worked in groups on research projects to address public health issues for the town of Douentza, Mali, taking our macro content knowledge of public health and implementing it at a micro level.

    The course’s project in Mali was an opportunity to pool the wealth of resources from Northwestern and its partner organization, the Near East Foundation (NEF), to implement health initiatives in limited-resource environment.  I was eager to test and implement my management and professional skills in a setting that could have such a profound social impact.  In a corporate setting, change management and quality of life issues were rarely matters of life and death. With this project, I jumped at the opportunity to implement changes with such gravity, but I also hoped to bring those experiences back with me, allowing them to influence my decision-making as a more socially responsible and compassionate manager.

    I was fortunate enough to travel with a group of students to Douentza, Mali, to conduct a project gap analysis with our NEF counterparts, seeing in person where our research fell short and where our public health interventions could have a lasting, powerful impact.

    Finally, this trip and this project would not be possible without the resources and dedication of Northwestern University, its dedicated faculty advisors, Juliet Sorensen and Karin Ulstrup, the Near East Foundation, and the members of our project’s Community Advisory Board in Douentza. Thank you.

  5. The power of collaboration: uniting communities for sustainable action

    September 6, 2013 by Guest Bloggers

    Northwestern global health minor Elizabeth Larsen traveled to Uganda this summer to attend GlobeMed’s East Africa Forum in Kampala. For the Global Health Portal she writes about the power of collaboration and the theme from the Forum: Uniting Communities for Sustainable Action.

     

    “No one person, no one alliance, no one nation, no one of us is as smart as all of us thinking together.” – James Stavridis

    Group photoThis idea, the idea of the untapped and immeasurable potential in unity, was the common thread weaving together my experience at the inaugural 2013 GlobeMed East Africa Forum.

    I remember the inception of this conference, sitting around a table with my coworkers, scribbling ideas and phrases onto Post It notes that would come together to form a theme that would guide the entire weekend. This theme, Uniting Communities for Sustainable Action, was clearly visible throughout the conference, as grassroots leaders, students, and supporters traveled hundreds of miles to convene in Kampala, Uganda. As Brian Hanson, Northwestern professor and Chair of the GlobeMed Board of Directors, remarked during the weekend, “We believe in individuals and communities coming together to instigate change,” and the East Africa Forum was a true testament to this.

    The chance to unite the GlobeMed network – a global family of people, united by a the power of human relationships and a shared vision of health for all – in one space to discuss, debate, and grapple with new ideas was an unparalleled opportunity to shine the spotlight on the voices of our partners, the people who work day in and day out making our dream of global health equity into a reality. Combined with the voices of students, speakers, and supporters, the result was a unique and meaningful dialogue on the successes and challenges in the field of not only global health, but of human rights and international development in general.

    Delegates at the forumAs we continually heard throughout the weekend, collaboration is crucial to the success of our projects, partnerships, network, and really, the world as a whole. We all are well aware that this vision cannot be achieved alone.  Time and time again, we have seen that walking together will take us infinitely further than walking alone.

    The 2013 GlobeMed East Africa Forum was an important step in showing the world the power of collaboration, not just between select individuals or certain stakeholders, but rather between people from all walks of lives, from countries all over the globe, from diverse fields, and with different ideas about how our common vision may be achieved.

    We started the GlobeMed East Africa Forum as a group of students, partners, and supporters with a shared vision for a better future, and we walked away as a family, bursting with new ideas, knowledge, and friendships that will ignite our work in the years to come. Here’s to the people of East Africa that I’ll never forget.

    For more quotes, photos, and videos, as well as a rundown of the speakers and panelists, check out the Highlights from the 2013 GlobeMed East Africa Forum Storify at http://sfy.co/gOv5 .


  6. Insights from “Beyond 2015: Targeting Institutional Human Rights Violations” Lecture by Thomas Pogge

    October 17, 2012 by Guest Bloggers

    By: Hayley Gleeson, WCAS ’13

    The Millennium Development Goals have been a hot topic in the world of global health for the past decade. These eight goals, established by the United Nations in 2000, tackle some of the world’s most serious issues of inequality, including hunger, poverty, health and education, aiming to greatly reduce these problems by 2015. However, as 2015 fast approaches, we need to start thinking about what is going to happen afterward. Last Thursday, about 70 students and faculty members attended a lecture by Thomas Pogge, Director of the Global Justice Program and Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs at Yale University, in which he discussed ways in which we can address global poverty “Beyond 2015”.

    Pogge made a provocative argument about world poverty, asserting that national governments and supranational institutions keep the poorer segments of a population in poverty with biased policies and arrangements. Since the 1970s, the income share of the poorest half of the US population has dropped by 50%, while that of the richest 1% has more than doubled. The richest 30,000 citizens of the United States now have half as much income between them as the poorest half combined. These vast inequalities are caused by systematic violations of human rights by supranational institutions, such as holding monopolies over medication, seeds, and borrowing privileges. He stated that in order to rid society of this inequality, we need to target these policies directly and assign responsibility to specific agents, rather than continuing to rely on the detached aspirations of the Millennium Development Goals.

    Pogge presented eight new post-2015 Institutional Reform Goals to address the current problems. These included taxation on trade-distorting subventions, greenhouse gas emissions and arms exports to developing countries; the closing of bank accounts with unknown owners or beneficiaries, and only allowing minimally representative rulers to take on debt burdens. Pogge’s critique of the MDGs is that although they were grand ideas, there was no particular person in charge of actually implementing, regulating or monitoring them. These new reform goals are geared toward specific targets or agents, allowing for greater division of responsibility and, ultimately, an end to extreme poverty and inequalities across the globe.

  7. Obesity & Body Size Perception in Moroccan Women

    October 15, 2012 by Guest Bloggers

    Zabin Patel (WCAS 2014)
    Sara Kashani (WCAS 2012)
    Project: Obesity & Body Size Perception in Moroccan Women
    Fellowship: John & Martha Mabie Fellowship for Global Health Research
    Summer 2012

    Accessing care: Ibn Tofail is a public hospital in Marrakesh, Morocco.

    We are walking past a security guard at Hospital Ibn Tofail, the public hospital of Marrakesh. He stands in front of the white gates, barring entry to a group of women who are waiting under the burning Moroccan sun. It is 12 o’ clock noon. As we walk through the doors, there is a large waiting area to our right – with almost every seat filled. And to our left are the patient rooms – a few with their doors open. In the third dimly lit room is a man on a bed frame, silently moaning in pain. We hear a mix of languages—Arabic, Berber, French—while the staff and patients hurry by in a rush, the same sort of rush that envelops Djeema el-Fna, the city’s main square.

    Savory stews: Traditional Moroccan dishes of meat and vegetables are slow-cooked in a clay pot called a taj’in.

    According to the World Health Organization, obesity has become a worldwide epidemic,
    even in developing nations that had previously seen only under-nutrition. Some places face the dual burden of a gender differential—an obesity prevalence biased towards females—potentially mediated by individual behavior, the social environment, or other personal or cultural factors. In Morocco specifically, studies have found that obesity is four times more prevalent in women than in men (Prentice, 2005). Through funding from the John & Martha Mabie Fellowship, and with support from International Program Development at Northwestern University, United for Service, and Volunteer Morocco, we studied sociocultural factors that could help explain this gendered obesity prevalence. Our findings can provide insight into an issue that is not well understood and has the potential to inform health campaigns and improve interventions for obesity.

    Suited up: Zabin and Sara donned traditional Moroccan garb for the wedding.

    From the people to the architecture, everything about Morocco is zwen—beautiful! Lush gardens fill the cities and historical mosques that dot the old medinas are brimful with centuries of pride. Over cups of mint tea, the locals of the villages we visited cooked us taj’in, a traditional Maghrebi—Moroccan—dish, conversed with us about our work and Bollywood films, and even invited us to an elaborate Moroccan wedding!

    Not from concentrate: Orange Juice Vendor No. 41, also known as “Ultras Crazy Boys.”

    While in the U.S. we may turn a critical eye toward physicians and the healthcare system, in the rural health clinics we visited, the villagers looked at the doctors who volunteered with nothing less than reverence. Their gratitude touched us—even when we were not doing more than just measuring height and weight. The Moroccan people and their selfless generosity are enough to make us want to visit al-Maghreb—Morocco—again. That and also because Marrakesh has the best orange juice we’ve ever tasted.

     

     

  8. Project RISHI: Health and Lifestyle Analysis in Charniya, Hayana, India

    October 1, 2012 by Guest Bloggers

    Written by: Manisha Bhatia
    Team Members: Varshini Cherukupalli, Apas Aggarwal, Shreya Agarwal
    Location: Charniya, India
    Project: Project RISHI: Health and Lifestyle Analysis in Charniya, Hayana, India
    Fellowship: International Group Research Fellowship in Global Health

    The Project RISHI summer trip was mind-blowing. Each student involved dedicated so much time and effort into ensuring the project successful started its India trek with a bang. Before we even started planning the summer trip, the Research and Education committee started developing an extensive needs assessment to determine how we could help the community. The exec board and members worked tirelessly through Samosa fundraisers, disease presentations, and donation letters to raise funds and educate ourselves to prepare for the community.

    The community I am speaking of is Charnia, a village 45 minutes outside of Chandigarh. The village is comprised mainly of two populations: the farmers and the brick manufacture workers. After spending time in the village, however, we learned there were many other types of people there. We met people who worked on government projects while living in huts, construction workers who lived in sedentary homes, factory workers who lived in bricks stacked upon each other, and engineers who lived in beautiful permanent homes.

    We spent over 8 days surveying different parts of the community, and as much as I dreaded a full day of survey each morning, it was one of the best ways to get to know the diverse community.

    During my first day of the needs-assessment survey, I worked with another student, and as he asked questions, I recorded the families’ responses. The first house we visited seemed well-off; the family had a bed, electricity, a fan, and a sturdy building. They knew all of the answers to the infectious disease section of our survey which made me wonder if the population would benefit from our involvement. However, our next house showed the community’s need.

    The family of nine lived in a small one bedroom home that had an extended porch. They were Harijans in the Hindu caste system; they were the untouchables. While the other families we surveyed had the ability to move upward in society, the Harijans did not have that opportunity. The family answered our questions as best they could; however, their knowledge was lacking. The mother of the family constantly added to her husband’s answers, and she looked to me for approval.

    After the interview, we moved to the next house, a luxurious home with two foreign cars in the garage. During the interview, I could not stop thinking about the previous family. Just as we left the nice house, the woman from the previous house approached me and started talking about the treatment she received from the doctors and the below poverty card. I tried to note down as much as possible, but our community guide was hurrying us to the next house.

    I almost forgot about the woman, but then she appeared at the site of the health camp as we were setting up. She was wearing a sling on her right arm, and approached me with tears in her eyes. She told me she and her husband had been in an accident the day after we surveyed them and they did not have a way to receive proper medical attention. She looked to me as her advocate but, the best I could do was to tell her was to come to the health camp and physicians would examine her. Each time I spoke with the woman, I was surprised by how much she opened up towards me. During our first encounter, I had just said hello, and let my RISHI partner ask the survey questions. Yet the woman approached me outside of the next house. At the health camp set up, there were five of us working on the organization but the woman once again approached me about her accident. In our 20 minute survey, I made a connection with this woman who truly needed medical attention; just by being the community, our group of NU students made a real difference.

    The day of the health camp, however, was when we learned about all of the different medical issues the community faced. After meeting with the civil surgeon and numerous other doctors at the beginning of our trip, we learned the same practices applied to students – meaning, we were not allowed to do any invasive tests, including sugar and hemoglobin test. So, through our advisors, we found some MBBS students to volunteer their Sunday morning to help run this health camp.

    It was raining cats and dogs as we set up for the health camp. Once it started, the weather cooperated, and the chaos on the ground began. The community members were lined up and ready to start the process, so we had them go through multiple stations: sign in with height and weight; vitals: blood pressure, hemoglobin, and sugar levels; then they waited for their name to be called. The patients would then see the specialty doctors for whatever ailment was the most severe; some patients saw a couple of doctors to make sure everything was checked up. We had a variety of specialties, but the most amazing thing was seeing the doctors from different institutions and with different ties to the community work together. Everyone relied on one of the volunteers to direct the community members to the right specialty station, and then each of the doctors relied on the pharmacy, staffed with multiple doctors, to allot the right medications. I was impressed seeing such a mix of people, doctors, volunteers, and students, unite for the community.

    There are a ton of things to be said about our trip. But, the one the only thing I am thinking about is how lucky I am to have been part of this entire journey. I went to India for 20 days and each day has taught me at least one new thing. We are setting up the groundwork for an amazing RISHI project, and each trip member has shown their dedication to the sustainability and effectiveness of the project.

    I am so thankful to have come on this trip with 10 other extremely driven NU students  who always prioritize the needs of the community. I am so impressed that after each of our long surveying days, the extremely tiring health camp, and even while we are site seeing, RISHI trip members are willing to discuss our project at length. Monday evening we drove to Amritsar to see the Golden Temple, slept less than 3 hours, shopped around the city, watched the changing of the guard, and made our way back to Chandigarh. Though everyone was exhausted, we managed to have a serious discussion about the progress of our projects. Once we started the discussion, everyone chimed in because these people, my Northwestern peers, these 10 other NRIs truly want to help the people of Charniya.

    I am looking forward to what the new RISHI generation will bring to Charniya!! This trip has really solidified our connection with the community, and as hard as we worked this past year, I know the Project RISHI members will work even harder, with a more defined goal this upcoming year. The diversity in Charniya begs us to look at the community with multiple lenses and slowly work with them on different solutions to their many problems.

    I am so thankful to have had this opportunity and am excited for more students to experience this!

  9. Strange Experiences, Changed Perspective: Research in Rural India

    September 26, 2012 by Guest Bloggers

    Prathyusha Chenji (WCAS 2015)
    Major: Asian Middle East Studies
    Location: Tirupati, India
    Project: The Effects of Religious Diets on Nutritional Anemia in Women
    Fellowship: Radulovacki Global Health Scholars Research Fellowship

    When I first found out I would be able to conduct my project abroad for the summer, I was more than a little excited. I usually try to avoid clichés, so I definitely was not expecting a trip that would change my entire perception of the world. But that’s exactly how it worked out.

    I wanted to study the effects of religious diets on nutritional anemia in women, specifically studying iron deficiency anemia in non-pregnant women of reproductive age. It’s common knowledge that anemia is determined by what you eat, but very few realize that in India, religion dictates your daily menu. Hindus do not consume beef or pork, some eating only white meat (poultry or fish) or choosing to be vegetarians because of their beliefs. Muslims refrain from consuming pork products, while Christians do not have any religious dietary restrictions, and I wanted to be able to compare these populations and see if their Hemoglobin levels (Hb, # of red blood cells count which determines anemia) differ. My location was Tirupati, India, which I chose because it was a holy town, the most popular pilgrimage site in India (the Hindu version of Mecca, of sorts); if religious diets played a significant role in causing anemia, I could find out there.

    But as soon as I arrived, I knew I had entered a whole new world. I wasn’t expecting a clinic with earthly hues on the walls and goldfish in the waiting area, but everything was so different from what I was used to. I remember being so shocked every time the door to the doctor’s office opened, because the patients would swarm the door, fighting each other to get in and treated first! It wasn’t until later I realized how far these people had come from just to see the doctor, how not all of them were privileged enough to call in and make an appointment beforehand and get a ride to the hospital. They had saved up for months for just this visit, and didn’t have all day or they would miss the public transportation taking them back to their hometowns. So they had a right to push through. Dr. Maddini treated hundreds of patients weekly in that small clinic, but few of them could pay the full cost of their visit. Yet she continued to treat them, and they always came back, and they looked at my mentor as though she was their angel. And no matter how many times I explained that I wasn’t a doctor, that I wasn’t even a medical student, the patients looked at me the same way because I was sitting across from my mentor and I was enthusiastic to talk to them about my research. I didn’t even know them and they had more confidence in me than I ever did, which I never got used to. Like I said, it was a whole new world.

    It’s actually insane how much I learned. Learning how to cross the street, for example, took me a few weeks (try no traffic rules, no traffic lights, side walks or stop walks, and people drive on the left side of the street! So confusing and scary!) There were days where I couldn’t go to the clinic because we were out of water (which seems insane, but we actually had to wait to buy it from a water truck before resuming daily tasks). I noted that the power goes out for four hours daily in Tirupati, from 8-10 AM and then from noon to 2 PM, because there was less supply than demand. I learned that jeans and blouses make local women intimidated, and I had to get traditional local outfits tailored in order to effectively communicate with patients. I had to accept that to be a doctor, or to be associated with a physician in rural India comes with respect, and everyone (from patients to staff) referred to me as “madam” even when I insisted to be called by my name because I was merely a student. Some patients would quickly answer questions, and practically run away from me after our conversations were over, while others would linger, asking me about my studies, life, trying to get a glimpse of the foreign nation I come from. Honestly, life back home seemed like a dream after just a few weeks abroad.

    After this trip, I realized that practicing medicine doesn’t necessarily mean owning fancy equipment in a large hospital, treating patients by appointment. It could also mean everything that my mentor, Dr. Maddini, is attempting to do. By using her profession to treat a primarily underprivileged population, she is improving the lifestyles of hundreds of patients weekly. Her secretary doesn’t need a visitor sign-in; she knows all the patients by name. And when patients call, they call Dr. Maddini directly on her cell, all their numbers in her phonebook along with her family and friends. People are confident they can get a hold of the doctor on the first ring, confident that they don’t have to go through nurses and appointments, don’t ever have to wait to see the doctor. And that’s the kind of doctor I want to be in the future. To be able to serve those who have the least, but have the most heart. It might be difficult, it might lack structure and order (which I desperately need), but it’s an unpredictable life that would benefit the patients the most.

    It seems crazy to me how differently things are run back home, how easy we have it even without realizing it. My life, to me, seemed ordinary, but my interactions with local people while conducting research have allowed me to see that my life seems extraordinary to them. For the first time, I feel I’ve acquired an alternate perspective of the world, that perhaps we are the lucky minority who can fret about petty things like classes and facebook while much of the world worries about getting food for the day, or conquering an minor illness. If not for these experiences, I never would have known what I wanted, and my future seems a little less fuzzy now. I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was five, and back then my only reason was because I thought stethoscopes were cool! But I’ve broadened my perspectives, I feel I’ve opened doors to so many opportunities to help people in the future, and though I’m not sure where I’ll be, I know that this past summer will define everything I do for the rest of my life.

  10. Reflections on Summer Global Health Research in Ho, Ghana by the GlobeMed Grow Team

    September 6, 2012 by Guest Bloggers

    Matthew Zhou, Ragini Bhushan, & Sasha Jones
    GlobeMed’s Grow Team
    Location: Ho, Ghana
    John & Martha Mabie Fellowship for Global Health Research

    In Ghana, the traditional greeting to welcome guests is “Woé zɔ”, literally translated as “You are welcome”. Ghanaian hospitality exemplified this idea, unreservedly welcoming us into their country, culture, and homes. GlobeMed at Northwestern’s GROW team, funded by Northwestern IPD, traveled to Ho, Ghana this summer for three weeks to conduct research at the H.O.PE. Center. Our goal was to learn more about cultural post-natal nutrition practices and infant care in the local community. In the process, we had the privilege of learning about the intricate and proud culture native to Ghana. We were humbled by their sincerity and kindness, acknowledged for our differences yet still accepted into their lives.

    Our research centered around the breastfeeding practices and nutritional care for infants distinct to Ghanaian culture. We wanted to answer the questions of how Ghanaian mothers raised their children after birth and whether these methods keep children within international health standards. Our partner organization, the H.O.P.E. Center, assisted us in arranging interviews with mothers, taking measurements of the babies for statistical analysis with WHO health standards, and providing translators to bridge the cultural and language barriers. Our data revealed a number of differences between American and Ghanaian breastfeeding and child nutrition, information that we plan to give to the H.O.P.E Center in creating nutritional outreach programs for mothers.

    Our host family took us in as one of their own, cooking us local foods such as banku and fufu (rice-based dishes) and sitting with us to watch the Ghanaian presidential campaigns and movies. As we got to know each other better, they told us of their culture – of grand weddings and funeral celebrations, the fierce mountains and jungles of Ghana, and the hope of building a better future for their nation. They were people proud of their country, calling for national unity even during their presidential elections. This seemed especially striking to me contrasted with our own nation’s polarized political factions for presidency. This theme of unity spread to their religion as well, with the vast majority of the population comprised of Christians and Muslims. As we accompanied our host family to Sunday church, we could understand the powerful draw of organized religion in Ghana. Upon raising the draped cloth that covered the entrance and crossing the threshold, we were enveloped in a sense of community and purpose. Voices joined with visceral passion and joy, and as the pastor delivered her sermon the congregation rang out with spontaneous exclamations of “Hallelujah”. It was a strikingly raw experience that shed a lot of light on what it means to be Ghanaian.

  11. My Summer Internship at the Obesity Institute of Children’s National Medical Center

    August 20, 2012 by Guest Bloggers

    "When I visited the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History I ran into this Moai statue. Having just been in Chile, I was excited to see it prominently displayed."

    Sophia Blachman-Biatch (WCAS 2013)

    Major: Psychology
    Minor: Global Health
    Certificate: Integrated Communications Marketing
    Location: Washington, D.C.

    I began in Washington, D.C. at the Obesity Institute (OI) at Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC) this summer in order to work on the development of OI’s newest program as well as support and learn about some of the other successful existing programs. Over the course of the last couple months I have integrated myself into OI’s collaborative and become a useful part of its structure.

    One program I am supporting is Juntos Podemos Start Early Start Right (http://www.childrensnational.org/obesity-institute/prevention-and-wellness/start-early-start-right.aspx). It is an educational program taught for free and in Spanish for Latino families with children ages 6 and younger. It focuses on developing knowledge and skills for healthy eating and active living so that parents can take charge of the health environment of the household. Weekly classes are intimate, educational, and fun both in their structure and their content. The program leader described to me the changes she has seen take place in the participants over the last 6 years that the program has been in existence. Each 10-week course begins with a new set of families who tend to have little to no knowledge of nutrition, but who by the end of the program, are more motivated and educated, so that the caretakers who stick with it consistently decrease their BMIs and learn about nutrition, physical activity, and advocacy. One woman shared how she got whole-wheat pasta to be sold at her local grocer by talking to the owner. Another woman told me about how her child tried watermelon for the first time and now asks for it daily.

    OI includes both a treatment arm, where consultations, constant monitoring, diet plans, medications, and bariatric surgeries are combined to deal with obesity and its secondary outcomes as well as a preventative arm focused on community programming. The OI doctors and staff are extremely capable, hardworking, and caring. I have the utmost respect for what they do, especially given the constant uphill battle they face. The following statistics are just a few illustrations of Washington, D.C.’s challenges: Over 20% of children and adolescents are obese (the 9th highest rate per capita in the US), 81% of children do not get USDA’s recommended 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day, and only about 30% of children follow the CDC recommendation of 60 minutes of daily physical activity. One poignant success thus far in D.C. is the D.C. Healthy Schools Act, which supports many important actions for improving diet, physical activity, and health literacy for district adolescents and children.

    Obesity will not be successfully addressed if only medications and medical procedures are employed. It is necessary to combine treatment with preventative actions, through community programing, strategic marketing, and a change of societal expectations regarding healthy living. OI is at the forefront of this change, and I cannot wait to see where we go next.

  12. Haiti Trip: A big step in the right direction

    August 13, 2012 by Guest Bloggers

    Michael Aleman (MEAS, 2014)
    Major: Mechanical Engineering
    Minor: Global Health
    Location this summer: Haiti

    Although I had originally planned to spend upwards of a month in Haiti, my back problems progressed to the point that I had to call it quits two weeks early. The issue, in part, was that the hospital did not have anyone trained in physical therapy that could help rehabilitate me, nor did they have a specialist who could recommend medications for my pain. Hence, on July 6th I found myself on a flight bound for Ft. Lauderdale and then Chicago.

    I’d arrived in Haiti with lots of plans, but I’ve learned that research projects in foreign settings are bound to have unexpected obstacles. In addition to my back, I found that there was simply not much I could contribute to the daily activities of the hospital through simple interviews with staff and the collecting of pertinent information. Rather, in my final week I found myself working with the hospital´s biomedical technicians fixing everything from an unresponsive medical monitor to a laser printer, with lots of mobile phones in between. I also spent a considerable amount of time documenting the status of the facility´s locks and plumbing for Tim Traynor who needed the information to ensure maintenance was undertaken as well as implement a master key system of locks.

    In the end I felt that I accomplished little in tangible terms, but an enormous amount in personal development. Though this wasn’t my primary goal, I couldn’t help but feel a little comforted by how much I enjoyed working as a partner to such a good cause and certainly lessened my frustration with my back problems. In the end, I felt the entire trip to be a big step in the right direction.

    Some of the photos show the other side of volunteering in a place like Haiti – a Fourth of July celebration, motorcycle trips to a mountaintop community to deliver hats or to see a French citadel and watching a local youth soccer match. As a result of this experience, I’m looking forward to returning to Milot to volunteer once again in the foreseeable future, hopefully on Northwestern University research money.

  13. Researching Parkinson’s disease in beautiful Lausanne this summer

    August 6, 2012 by Guest Bloggers

    Smitha Sarma
    Major: Biological Sciences
    Minor: Global Health, Psychology
    Location this summer: Lausanne, Switzerland

     

     

     

    I work in the SV building at EPFL. SV = Sciences de la Vie.

    My name is Smitha Sarma and I am a rising junior majoring in Biological Sciences with minors in Global Health and Psychology. As an aspiring doctor, I am interested in understanding the scientific process behind the generation of therapies. This summer, I am conducting research on gene therapies for Parkinson’s disease in the laboratory of Professor Patrick Aebischer at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects the elderly. Patients experience motor defects such as tremors, slowness of movement, and impaired balance and coordination. These symptoms occur because dopamine-producing neurons in the substantia nigra – a region in the midbrain – begin to die off. My project investigates the proteins linked to neuronal death and the proteins that could potentially delay or reverse the disease progression. We utilize rat models of PD and neuroblastoma cells to carry out our experiments.

    While my research is exciting, the location of my research experience is equally awesome. EPFL is located in Lausanne, an urban city nestled on the shores of Lac Léman in the French-speaking region of Switzerland, just a short train ride away from Geneva. Switzerland comes alive during this time of year; the Swiss take advantage of their beautiful summer weather (which always lingers around 70 degrees) by spending their free time outdoors. July and August are a great time of year to visit the land of chocolate and cheese. There are music festivals along the lakefront in nearly every city, and there are unlimited destinations to go hiking in the Alps.

    My friends and I frequently spend our evenings on the beaches of Lac Léman, also known as Lake Geneva. The lake is the border between Switzerland and France.

    My friends and I often meet up after work and go swimming in the lake, have potlucks on the apartment terrace, or venture into the city. On the weekends, we take trains to other cities and do touristy things like visiting castles and admiring yet another lake. The transportation system in Switzerland is a work of art. Trains arrive exactly on time every time, and the rides are always exciting, because the tracks follow the perimeter of the lakes and vineyards, and offer beautiful views of the mountains. And every major city is positioned right next to a lake, and great care is taken to ensure that the public can enjoy the lakefront. There are parks and beaches all over the place, and colorful flowers planted along cobblestone pathways as far as the eye can see. What better way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon than to grab a Mövenpick ice cream cone (Swiss dairy products are so rich and creamy) and take a stroll along the lake?

    I will be blogging more about my research and about my travels around Switzerland, so stay tuned!

  14. Haiti: A profound example of the triumph of the human spirit

    June 29, 2012 by Guest Bloggers

    Michael Aleman (MEAS, 2014)
    Major: Mechanical Engineering
    Minor: Global Health
    Location this summer: Haiti

     

    It’s been five days since I last wrote, and I’ve learned so much in such a short time. Haiti is a place of ironies: The petrol tap-tap with the words “Toyota Diesel” painted in cursive along its side. The man without a shirt chatting away on a cell phone. The laborers at the compound contrasted against those with little else to do but observe passers-by. A new road lined with small shacks built of what material was available. The open sewage ditches that line the roadways and from which local people gather fallen mangos after it dries in the afternoon sun.

    But Haiti is also a profound example of the triumph of the human spirit. The fearless tap-tap man who hangs out the back of the truck with one hand, as his other hand is holding the fare from his passengers. The seemingly limitless patience and politeness of the people at all times of the day. Their warmth towards the blan. Always responding with a smile and a wave. The members of a Baptist church dancing down the roadway with a truck hauling a large speaker providing the music, all at the hottest time of day. And who can forget the occasional “I love you!” from those who just want to show off their English skills?

    On a slightly different note, I got the chance to experience first-hand the Haitian health system in Milot on Monday. I was having back pain from a hike the day before and was taken to the hospital in their ambulance – a Toyota Land Cruiser with a rolling stretcher bed in the back and nothing more. I was unloaded by a friend and was taken around for a few minutes while they found a place for me to stay. I was placed in the Haitian equivalent of an outpatient ward – a hospital bed with a mattress and sheet in a large room filled with other sparsely furnished cots. I was fortunate in that I was the only one there, though the noise coming over the walls from the Records and Admissions offices kept me from feeling any sort of privacy. The heat and humidity also progressively increased as the clock neared 1PM. I drifted in and out of sleep until a couple of volunteer nurses moved me into the ICU, which was almost the same as the outpatient ward except that it had AIR CONDITIONING (some of the volunteers here joke that the Haitians hang out at the hospital a lot because of the A/C). Needless to say, I managed to sleep a little better. Around 7PM I was taken back to the compound, feeling a lot better after a shot of Toradol was administered to me.

    I should make it clear that the hospital is an incredible facility. The CRUDEM Foundation has done an incredible job doing what many would consider impossible – bringing top notch health care to the people of Milot and the surrounding areas. There is as much old equipment as there is new equipment, and a high quality of care policy which is comparable to that of the US, is ensured thanks to the Haitian medical personnel and volunteers. It is a very clean installation, and I am excited to be a part of it now as well as in the future.

  15. Haiti Trip: D-Day

    June 26, 2012 by Guest Bloggers

    Michael Aleman (MEAS, 2014)
    Major: Mechanical Engineering
    Minor: Global Health
    Location this summer: Haiti

     

    My flight was delayed by more than two hours – “Haitian time”, a fellow blanc mumbled. Miami was rainy, and our twin engine propeller plane had been having mechanical problems. We finally departed and began our flight to Cap Haitien with a stop in the Bahamas. The propeller aircraft flew low enough that I got to admire the beauty of the Caribbean islands we passed over, small plots of green, yellow and black in the center of light blue shallow waters that resembled eyes. Our stop in the Bahamas was away from any pleasant sights in what appeared to be a construction site.  We departed soon after landing.

    After flying over some more island paradises, Haiti finally came into view. It was HUGE, nothing like the islands I’d been flying over! And covered in lush green mountains. We landed and upon emerging from the aircraft I began to notice things – the small, unpainted two story shack that served as a control tower, the groups of people freely walking along the airport’s grassy areas near the runways, the humidity, $2 tip to the luggage handlers, the relaxed security measures. Bonjour Haiti, I thought. I was quickly picked up and whisked away through the mass of  drivers to the hospital representative’s Toyota Hilux, who noted he’d been waiting since 9AM (it was 3:30PM then).

    The drive to the hospital was quick and straightforward, though I continued to notice things – the infamous tap-taps, small pickup trucks with interesting names, symbols, and colors, the garbage, the number of people walking along the roadway, the motorbikes (some carrying at least 4 people), the homes (both built and painted as well as under construction, I think?), the dogs, the smoke from fires fed by both plant matter as well as plastics and garbage, etc. I did note that the road was very good, though I found out later that it was only a year old yet looking much older.

    Arriving at the hospital, I was greeted by a volunteer named Lisa. She was halfway through a 1-year stint at Hopital Sacre Coeur and got me settled. I also met a number of Tufts Medical School students who I would be joining the next day on a community health trip. After getting acquainted, I sought out Tim Traynor, the man who had originally approved of my research trip to the site. He welcomed me and had me join him while he discussed hospital matters with the new security head through a translator. We then went to the shop area down the road, and I watched as he instructed the hospital hands on how to unload transformers from a recently arrived shipping container. It was interesting to see how involved Tim had to be in instructing the Haitians to properly empty the unit.

    Later he invited me along on a trip to Cap Haitian. As I prepared to jump into the packed Hilux cabin, I saw him hop into the truck bed. Oh yeah, I thought, I’m in Haiti now. I joined him in the back and laughed when I realized that the Haitians must think we blancs are crazy for doing such a thing. Riding into town, Tim gave me a great crash course in both Haitian culture and society and photography.  A lot sounded familiar to what I had read and been told, but mostly I began to be humbled by how much I didn’t know. The town was truly spectacular and at times sketchy, but I will let the photos to do the talking.

    Tomorrow I’ve been booked for a 6AM hike, a 7:30AM breakfast, and a 9:30AM departure on the medical students’ community health trip. I’m in heaven.

     

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