April 19 marked the beginning of the summer term when, every year, all students in the Global Health program travel to Manipal in India for the Global Health Symposium – Bridging Different Worlds – a collaborative effort between Maastricht, McMaster, and Manipal universities. The simulated international symposium seeks to bridge the gap between knowledge and experience, facilitating collaboration and decision-making in transcontinental teams, and giving students the opportunity to meet their peers face to face.
For the next two weeks, 214 students (63 from McMaster, 74 from Maastricht and 77 from Manipal) will be busy participating in seminars by experts in global and public health, presenting their abstracts on selected research topics, and attending field visits – all while learning to make critical decisions under real-world conditions of time pressure, heat and jetlag.
Yesterday was the first day of field visits. After several planning and prepping sessions, all groups were ready to experience some hands-on global health work.
McMaster student Anthony Sandre’s group travelled to a primary health centre to assess the challenges associated with the implementation of a national health policy, including the delivery of health services at the primary care level. “My group interviewed Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) workers and a primary care physician (otherwise known as a Medical Officer),” Sandre explains.
“The interviews focused on lifestyle diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. We faced several challenges while conducting the interviews. For example, there were significant communication barriers, as many ASHA workers did not speak English. At one point an interview was being conducted in English, Hindi and the local language.”
Despite these challenges, Sandre’s group was able to adapt, using “a combination of communication and collaboration skills,” he says. “We learned how to work together as a team by assigning roles during interview sessions, while attempting to wrap our minds around a completely new culture.”
One of the highlights so far for Maastricht student Ibukun Adepoju has been the opportunity to work as a team to prepare for her group’s two-minute grant proposal pitch. “One of the best rewards from submitting our proposal was the realization that I will one day be working with other professionals in putting together grant applications. It’s great to know that I have a starter kit of skills in my pocket as I look ahead to the near future.”