Last year I was fortunate enough to be chosen for the NU team competing at the Emory University International Global Health Case Competition. For those of you who have never heard of the Global Health Case Competition, it is a yearly competition held at Emory University which brings teams of 3-5 students from more than 30 schools all over the world together. Teams are given one case to solve – a scenario of a global health problem. Each team needs to come up with a solution and present it to a panel of esteemed judges. Northwestern has sent teams for the last two years (all expenses paid) to Atlanta to participate under the auspices of the Center for Global Health.I am an international public health nerd, so when I heard that the Center for Global Health was accepting applications for team members, I jumped at the chance. A few weeks later I found out that I was accepted, and that I was part of an interdisciplinary team of six students (one business school, three undergrads, one medical school and me, an MPH). I did not know anyone on the team, but even at our first meeting I could tell that this experience was not going to be the normal “group work” nightmare that most of us face in our classes. This would not be a situation in which one person was doing all the work. Not at all. My group was highly motivated though our backgrounds and levels of training were diverse. For two months we met once a week to review previous cases that had been presented at Emory in years past – such problems as nutrition in Uganda, refugee health in East Africa, and anti-smoking campaigns in India. We worked on our solutions and asked faculty members from across campus to give us feedback. Through our time working together we figured out who did what best. Our business school student was a pro with budgeting, evaluation and sustainability issues. Our medical student dealt with the clinical issues. Our undergraduates came from backgrounds of Anthropology and Biology so they leaned towards cultural sensitivity and biomedical engineering innovations. I leaned on my background in behavior change interventions and public health education.
Finally it was time to head to Atlanta. We had received our case from Emory before we left. It posed the problem of how and where we, as China, would invest in water and sanitation development in 2015? The organizers met us at the airport and immediately we started getting to know other teams. Sitting next to a group from UCLA on the bus we shared our backgrounds and got to know each other. The next day we were excited to be lead on a guided tour of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and enjoy a keynote speech by public health rock star Dr. Bill Foege, 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, who lead efforts to eradicate smallpox. That was a thrilling day. At the risk of sounding more nerdy, I was so pumped to be a public health student then and there. The next day we spent working on the case. It was a long day! We probably worked until 4am, breaking only to take a group picture wearing our Northwestern shirts. Finally we presented. It was nerve racking but satisfying to present in front of judges from high profile public health organizations. We were happy with what we had done; we were proud as a team. No, we did not win, but later that day at the farewell reception, surrounded by other students, everyone was still riding high from the thrill of the past few days. In the end the best part was that despite our diverse backgrounds and educations, we worked together as a team.