A Global Health Case Competition Comes to Northwestern!

by Kate Klein (MPH Student)

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.
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Okay, so why should you care? Well, we decided to bring this experience to Northwestern for more students to participate and gain experience working in diverse teams. A bunch of centers at the University joined together to organize the first annual Northwestern Intramural Global Health Case Competition to be held on February 15th. Winners of the competition will get the all expenses paid trip to Emory’s competition in late March, as well as $1,000! Second place winners will get $600!  We will have guest judges and a keynote speaker and faculty mentors to help you as you work.  Any student from any department or level can apply to participate. No, you don’t have to have international experience! Students can apply as teams of 3-5 people or can apply individually to be placed on teams. If you want to apply as a team, the only catch is that teams have to be interdisciplinary, meaning representation from 3 departments or schools.
Are you ready to apply? Good!  Here is where you go: http://globalhealth.northwestern.edu/announcements/GHCaseCompetition2014.html. Deadline to apply is January 10th.  Do it!
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About NPHR Blog (223 Articles)
The is the blog of the Northwestern Public Health Review journal. The blog and journal are both student run and contain research articles, opinions, interviews and other content pertaining to public health.

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