Global to Local Convenes Leaders and Students On Health Disparities

This post is by Sharmila Paul, Veronica Remmert and Alexander Chu, members of the Global Health Interest Group, and Sarayu Adeni, global health program coordinator at Dell Med and Texas Global’s Special Initiatives Team.

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Dell Med Global Health Interest Group virtually hosted its second Global to Local conference on May 1, connecting health leaders from across the globe with an audience of students, professors and professionals on the topic of “Health System Strengthening to Combat Health Disparities.”

Rebounding from last year’s in-person cancellation, student leaders capitalized on virtual platforms to invite international experts and host rich discussions of health disparities worldwide. The various panels included representatives from academia, health care and humanitarian efforts who explored innovative, effective and ethical solutions to improve and strengthen health care systems.

In the first panel, conversation spanned migrant health issues, disparities within technology access exacerbated by the pandemic, and global programmatic work to address public health challenges. Deliana Garcia, director of international projects and emerging issues at Migrant Clinicians Network, spoke of the need for more public conversations around health care access and equity and how important it is to “take leadership for the health of your community.”

In the conference’s highest attended session, Chiu Ya-Wen, Ph.D., professor at Taipei Medical University and leader in Taiwan’s national COVID-19 pandemic response, highlighted the seven essential factors for Taiwan’s ongoing success against the virus with “whole-of-government” and “whole-of society” approaches, and the importance of treating urgent public health issues above arguments of promoting or saving the economy.

“No health, no wealth,” Chiu warned.

Chiu noted that despite Taiwan’s success, the country still lacks a seat at the World Health Organization, to which she advocated for Taiwan’s inclusion as a valued member of the global health community.

In the keynote session, Tim Mercer, M.D., chief of the Division of Global Health at Dell Med, introduced the keynote speaker, Jewel Mullen, M.D., associate dean for Health Equity at Dell Med, to discuss aging society as a global challenge that requires innovation, collaboration and policy changes. Mullen noted how social inequities across the life course impact healthy aging, stressing the importance of working within and across communities to exchange ideas and find solutions.

In the final panel, Shanti Parikh, Ph.D., John Howe, M.D., and Gabriel Garcia, M.D., brought up big questions such as “Why does global health equity matter?” and “What are some examples of health system-level interventions that have worked well?” They spoke directly to how students and trainees in the audience could get involved in global health.

Conference attendees also had a selection of three breakout sessions and could explore a poster and abstract series. Barnabas Alayande, M.D., a Paul Farmer Global Surgery Fellow at Harvard Medical School, spoke on the disparities present in surgical care across the globe. Zachary Eisner and Peter Delaney, co-founders and directors of LFR International, discussed implementing first-responder programs in sub-Saharan Africa and channeling lessons learned for emergency services crises in rural areas of the U.S. Elliot Trester, M.D., a local family medicine physician, spoke on climate change and its current and projected impact on health disparities.

This year’s conference organizing leaders included first-medical students — Canaan Hancock, Holly Langley, Madison Terzo, Rachel Daum, Saima Khan, Sofia Gereta, Veronica Remmert and Alexander Chu — and third-year medical students and Global Health Interest Group co-presidents, Sharmila Paul and Ife Shoyombo. With another well-attended, timely and thoughtfully organized conference complete, they look ahead to planning year three of the Global to Local conference — whether in person or virtually — in true demonstration of physician leadership.

The Global to Local conference is held annually. Stay tuned for more details on next year’s event.

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