UW High School Global Health Day opens doors to the world for Wisconsin students

Two female high school students listen to a speaker.

MADISON—While hundreds of Wisconsin high school football fans streamed into Camp Randall Stadium Friday, Nov. 16, for the high school playoffs, 77 students gathered in a quiet, airy room on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus to learn that global health opens career doors they never anticipated—in their communities and across the world.

Students from the Clinton, Janesville Craig, Janesville Parker, Marshall, Milton, Portage and Sun Prairie high schools spent the day at “Opening Doors to the World,” the sixth annual High School Global Public Health Day at UW-Madison. Hosted by the UW-Madison Global Health Institute (GHI) and the South Central Region Area Health Education Center (AHEC), the program is designed to show students the many ways they can be involved in public health and how social and environmental conditions lead to very different health outcomes. See more photos.

Program leader Maria Moreno sits between two high school girls at global health day.
Maria Moreno, GHI associate for Experiential Education, works with students during the sixth annual High School Global Public Health Day at UW-Madison.

“This is the only opportunity we have to bring students together in an educational platform where they learn to apply what they’re doing,” says Nancy Ondal Ziegler, a Portage High School teacher. “Students are learning about how to make a difference in their high school, in their community, in college, and they can expand on that knowledge and take it globally.”

Janesville Parker teacher Janice Verhulst incorporates the global health day into her curriculum. Janesville Craig teacher Abby Gunther says she appreciates that students see life isn’t the same across the world.

For Sun Prairie teacher Susan Goudreau, the day shows her medical occupations and Certified Nursing Assistant students new career opportunities. “The vastness is incredible in the places in the world that need assistance, not just in the U.S.,” she says. “There’s more than just getting your degree: It’ll take you so many places to help so many people. I hope some of them take that step.”

Two male high school students listen to speakers
Portage high school students Travis Miller, right, and Isaac Brockley find inspiration and learn about global health disparities at the sixth annual High School Global Public Health Day.

This was the second year Portage students Isaac Brockley and Travis Miller attended the event. “As students, it’s crucial for us to be aware of disparities, not only global but in Wisconsin,” Miller says. “Global health is here, there and everywhere. It’s important for students to be educated about such an important topic.”

Brockley plans to be a nurse, and the day inspires him to work internationally. Clinton student Lauren Corral appreciates the chance to visit with medical students. “You get to see another side of the world,” she says.

UW students from GlobeMed at UW-Madison, Partners in Health-Engage Madison and Wisconsin MEDLIFE, who organized and presented the program, wish they could have attended a high school global health day. MEDLIFE president Diane Xue from Germantown grew up knowing what a doctor or a nurse did, but no one talked about public health, she says. High School Global Health Day also lets student organizations share their enthusiasm for global health and gives high school students a “great opportunity to meet people who’ll be part of global health,” she says.

The day introduces students to UW-Madison and to global health, says Maria Moreno, GHI associate for Experiential Education. Chris Percy, an AHEC program coordinator, says it also  promotes careers in public health: “These kids are still figuring out what they’re doing to do. (The day) gets a lot of wheels turning.”

Teachers sit next to each other at a table.
Teachers Janice Verhulst, left, from Janesville Parker and Abby Gunther from Janesville Craig see new opportunities for their students at the UW-Madison High School Global Public Health Day.

That’s what Milton school-to-career coordinator Amy Kenyon looks for as she encourages her students to think outside the box. Milton is small, so students don’t often see all the opportunities available, she says. “Our world is based in a global environment. They need to see the implications of all the other countries and how we work together to solve issues in health … This is an opportunity they would not get in a small town, not at all.”

The South Central Region AHEC is part of a national network of programs dedicated to connecting students to careers, professionals to communities, and communities to better health.

GHI is committed to improving health for all today and tomorrow by addressing the multi-layered causes of disease. The institute fosters research, education and outreach collaboration across disciplines and encourages the sustainable use of global resources. For more information, visit ghi.wisc.edu.

By Ann Grauvogl/ November 19, 2018