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Northwestern University

Addressing Real-World Challenges

Students showcase skills at the 2014 Global Health Case Competition

Forty students from a diversity of educational backgrounds met Feb. 15 at Northwestern’s first annual Global Health Case Competition to present their solutions to a global health problem.

Teams of five students from undergraduate and graduate schools were asked to tackle a case about childhood pneumonia in Uganda. After a week of studying the case, which included a day of work, feedback from a mentor, and countless hours of preparation, the students met to compete.

The winning team included Emily Drewry (Medill), Suvai Gunasekaran (Feinberg), Grace Jaworski (Weinberg), Pooja Garg (Weinberg) and Smitha Sarma (Feinberg). 

The grand prize was $1,000, plus a chance to have all their expenses paid to attend the International Global Health Case Competition at Emory University in Atlanta. “We decided to bring this experience to Northwestern for more students to participate and gain experience working in diverse teams,” said organizer Kate Klein, an assistant director of the International & Comparative Study Program of African Studies and a graduate student in public health.

Real-world challenges

The day began with a welcome address by Michael Diamond, a global health professor at Northwestern who discussed the importance of collaboration in global health issues.

The judges included Megan Rhodes, deputy chief of USAID’s Maternal and Child Health Division. Rhodes observed that the case resembled challenges she had faced during the three years she spent working in public health in Uganda.

"Some of the best things I saw today were groups that recognized that entering a local healthcare system meant partnering with local organizations and local governments, paying attention to cultural practices and social norms,” Rhodes said. “The groups that did very well understood that they weren’t walking into a situation where they needed to sell a solution but where they needed to be part of a larger team of people who were aiming to solve a common problem."

The competition was sponsored by the Center for Global Health, International Program Development/Global Health Studies, the Global Engagement Summer Institute, the Buffet Center for International and Comparative Studies and the Program of African Studies.

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