As part of the University’s continued efforts toward promoting international health initiatives, students and faculty gathered on Friday to share their experiences in the field as part of Global Health Student Day.

During the event, held in Palmer Commons, students listened to presentations focused on health, disease and initiatives to prevent illness, and heard about opportunities for public health research abroad. Students also showcased their findings from projects conducted throughout the last year and engaged with attendees.

The day kicked off with a keynote address from William J. Martin, the associate director for disease prevention and health promotion at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. Martin’s lecture focused on global health issues surrounding chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Martin began by characterizing non-communicable diseases — medical conditions that cannot be transmitted from person to person — as one of the main public health issues worldwide. He also discussed the asthma epidemic in the 20th century, noting the impact nutrition, environment, trans-generational factors and birth weight has on the fetal origins of diseases.

“Prevention of disease may be possible in the first thousand days, years before it even begins,” Martin said.

He added that the University should oversee its efforts abroad to maximize success and make a positive impact, emphasizing that their commitment to international health should be a long-term effort.

“I think the key is for universities individually to figure out what their talent sets are, what they can provide and develop sustainable relationships with other universities or centers in host countries,” Martin said.

After Martin concluded his lecture, the audience asked student panelists questions about their experiences, accomplishments and challenges in working to implement progressive and sustainable change. The three campus organizations represented were Global REACH, the Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research Training program and Bolivia Interdisciplinary Internship Group.

Following the student panels, a poster session was held to highlight student and faculty research conducted overseas.

LSA junior William Rogers, who worked on a project involving family planning and fertility in Uganda through MHIRT, said the experience changed his outlook on what it means to be a global citizen.

“I think we live in an increasingly global world, so to critically engage with issues of population is important, given that many countries are rapidly increasing with population,” Rogers said. “There’s a question of, to what point do we have too many people, and how does that impact health services, how does it impact food systems?”

Public Health graduate student Courtney Hanna, who researched breast cancer in Morocco last summer, said her time abroad helped her become more of a global student.

“It definitely made me more resilient, in terms of being dropped into a country,” Hanna said. “I had to navigate myself in the hospitals. The medical records were all in French and I didn’t speak French, so I had to learn some to be able to read the medical records … This experience really changed me.”

Students at the fair found the presentations of program participants to be very helpful and insightful, helping them choose their global health study abroad plans for the summer.

Business junior Becca Pollick found that listening to others who have conducted health research abroad is essential to becoming a more globally integrated student.

“I think we see things in terms of our own bubble,” Pollick said. “It’s more of what we know is only what we see. There’s so much more to that, especially globally. How are you going to learn it if it’s not from listening to others who are knowledgeable about it?”

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