Global Health Symposium spans disciplines, generations and the world

The 11th annual Global Health Symposium at the University of Wisconsin-Madison not only brings colleagues together from across disciplines, it provides an intergenerational forum for undergraduates, graduate students and faculty and staff to share ideas.

That’s important, says Eric Obscherning, co-founder of the student-led Global Health Coalition. Faculty and staff bring experience in the nuances and complexity of global health work. Undergraduates, with little experience, push boundaries by asking “What if.” In between are graduate students with the idealism and passion of the undergraduates and the experience of mid-level professionals.

Eric Obscherning
Eric Obscherning

“When you combine all those things, it makes interesting things happen,” Obscherning says.

From avian influenza to empowering women in agriculture to improving access to pain medicines in Africa, Global Health Symposium 2015: Advancing Health in an Interconnected World gives the UW community a place to explore the complex determinants of health in Wisconsin and across the world.

The symposium begins at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 8, in the Health Sciences Learning Center, 750 Highland Ave. More than 50 undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff members, and health care professionals will deliver oral presentations and display posters of their global health work.

Dr. Keith Martin, executive director of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health and a former member of the Canadian Parliament, delivers the keynote address. With “Bees,

Keith Martin, executive director CUGH
Keith Martin, executive director CUGH

Bats and Buffalo: Bring One Health to Global Challenges,” Martin will explore the intersection of animal, environmental and human health. He also challenges universities to evolve in their global health work, connecting the products of research to an equal passion for implementing those solutions.

“The symposium is both important and symbolic to the work of GHI,” says Acting Director Christopher Olsen. “Although we support a wide variety of events throughout the year, the annual symposium provides an opportunity for a larger group to come together and celebrate and learn with one another.”

Hosted by the UW-Madison Global Health Institute, the symposium is co-sponsored by the Global Health Consortium and the Schools of Medicine and Public Health, Nursing, Pharmacy and Veterinary Medicine.

Symposium numbersThe first Global Health Symposium was organized in 2004 to connect students, faculty and staff who were participating in global health work. The event, like the Institute, has grown from the health sciences to include participants from across campus.

“A hallmark of GHI’s efforts, and the philosophy of UW-Madison more generally, is that by working across disciplines, we advance solutions to complex health problems beyond what a single discipline can accomplish,” Olsen says. “The health and well-being of humans, animals and the ecosystems we all share are truly interdependent upon one another, and we are excited to see scholars with different interests come together at the symposium.”

This year’s presenters represent 10 campus units, including the Schools of Medicine and Public Health, Pharmacy, Veterinary Medicine, Social Work and Human Ecology, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. The presenters’ projects took them to more than 20 countries and Wisconsin for collaboration, research, action and education.

The 2015 oral presentations showcase projects that build health capacity, improve women’s well-being, ensure health for all, expand food security and connect health and the environment. The presentations include:

  • Insect farming as a possible sustainable protein source in Zambia
  • Mapping soil lead levels in Madison, Wis., community gardens
  • Promoting gender equity in Ethiopia
  • Helping babies breathe in the Philippines
  • Developing curriculum for international rotations
  • The ecology of plague in U.S. grasslands

“Global health can be such an emotionally-charged issue, especially for undergraduates as we navigate its biomedical, social and political sides,” says Obscherning, who is also a GHI intern. “While international travel is the sexy thing for undergraduates, it’s important to see global health done with rigor in the academic world. The symposium is a good opportunity to connect the dots.”

The symposium is free and open to all. For planning purposes, please let us know if you plan to attend.

Find complete details here.

By Ann Grauvogl/ April 2, 2015