By Sofia Stafford, Class of 2017
Thanks to support from the Duke Global Health Institute, I attended the annual Consortium of Universities in Global Health (CUGH) conference in Washington DC last weekend. This conference convened over 1500 leaders from around the world including researchers, policymakers, educators, and students as well as NGOs, government, the private sector and international institutions. The speakers represented diverse fields that included medicine, engineering, business, law, communications, nursing, dentistry, veterinary sciences, environmental studies and the social sciences. The event was an opportunity for people from a wide range of fields and expertise to learn, network, and build collaborations with each other to address the global health challenges we face.
Attending the conference was an eye-opening experience and one that provided me with a view into different fields of intersections of global health that I might be interested in pursuing. As a rising sophomore, it was unique to have the opportunity to meet and talk with distinguished global health change makers who I would not have otherwise gotten a chance to speak to one-on-one. The presentations about the importance of empowering women were especially intriguing to me, as it got me thinking about the many ways in which our generation can be involved in improving global health. The speakers and people I have the chance to meet and learn from are helping me more clearly define my passion and carve my path. Not only did this conference confirm my interest and passion, but it also got me thinking about the numerous potential career paths in global health. I was exposed to important conversations that are taking place around the world about improving global health and the work to be done post MDGs.
The topics included issues such as exploring the intersection of health and media and learning more about the epidemic of violence against women which all fall under the umbrella of global health. However, the unifying theme of the conference was discussing the road ahead. In other words, where will global health be post-2015, the target year for achieving the Millennium Development Goals? The common thread between all the presenters and speakers was clear: There has been much progress in many areas of global health such as reducing maternal mortality and rates of malaria, but there is much work to be done in the road ahead as diseases re-emerge and the rate of injury increases. The speakers shared with us the immense progress that we have made in terms of improving health outcomes around the world, but they also described the different kinds of challenges we are likely to face when tackling these issues.
Although every sector must be involved in this work in order to make progress, the importance of the role of civil society was emphasized. One message, in particular, that resonates with me as I reflect on this conference is the idea that we as a society and especially global health professionals, need to move away from the ideal of solving all the global health issues and more towards the notion of empowering individual civilizations and communities to do so. Being able to see how the knowledge acquired in the classroom is applied in the field is both exciting and motivating as I complete my first year of college.
I look forward to continuing to explore the field of global health through classes and taking advantage of opportunities like this through my time at Duke.