Emory University’s contest lifts region’s role in global health arena

By David Pendered

Teams from Dallas and Baltimore took home top honors, but in a sense Emory University and metro Atlanta were the real winners in this weekend’s International Emory Global Health Case Competition.

The image is blurred but still illustrates the team from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, which won the Emory Global Health Case Competition. Credit: Emory University

The image is blurred but still illustrates the team from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, which won the International Emory Global Health Case Competition. Dr. David Barash, a chief medical officer for the lead sponsor GE, is on the right. Credit: Emory University

The event drew to Emory’s campus more than 140 top students and scholars from the U.S. and countries including Australia, Canada and Sweden. For these students, Emory was the venue to propose and debate 21st century strategies for the World Health Organization.

These strategies are extremely important. The question about the future of WHO is commanding worldwide attention from leading scientists and health care practitioners.

Back in 2010, WHO launched a comprehensive effort to reform an organization that was founded in 1948 as a specialized agency of the United Nations.

WHO has an impressive history. Past successes include the global eradication of smallpox, in 1980. Significant strides have been made against polio, guinea-worm disease, and leprosy.

But serious questions have arisen about the role of WHO in the modern world order.

As it continues to provide aid in places such as Afghanistan, the World Health Organization is in the midst of reform, which was the topic of a recent competition hosted by Emory University. Credit: Laura Salvinelli via www.behance.net/gallery/Tuberculosis-in-Herat-Afghanistan-Exhibition-1/5353881

As it continues to work to provide aid in places such as Afghanistan, the World Health Organization is in the midst of reform, which was the topic of a recent competition hosted by Emory University. Credit: Laura Salvinelli via www.behance.net/gallery

WHO’s director general, Dr. Margaret Chan, got the ball rolling on the issue of reform by convening in January 2010 a discussion of future financing of WHO.

According to the WHO website, that conversation quickly expanded:

  • “Participants raised more fundamental questions about the role of WHO and the nature of its core business in the rapidly changing environment of global health. These questions, and the discussions which led to them, are described in the report – The future of financing for WHO: report of an informal consultation convened by the Director General, Geneva Switzerland, 12-13 January 2010.”

There’s little reason to suspect that any of the discussions that occurred at Emory over the weekend will make their way onto the agenda of WHO’s 67th World Health Assembly. It’s slated to meet the third week of May in Geneva, Switzerland. WHO continues to provide monthly update of its reform efforts.

But there is strong reason to suspect that those who participated in the International Emory Global Health Case Competition will associate their discussions of global health and wellness with Emory’s campus and their time in metro Atlanta. They will return home with impressions of Emory as a place where cutting-edge thinkers took on one of the world’s major challenges – human health.

“The International Emory Global Health Case Competition has become by far the largest and most recognized academic global health team event in the country,” Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, Emory’s vice president for global health, said in a statement released before the contest. “The competition is an excellent opportunity for talented students from throughout the United States and other nations to apply their knowledge and creativity to solving a real-world global health challenge.”

The teams were charged with developing organizational strategies for WHO in order, “to ensure it successfully meets emerging 21st century health challenges.”

Teams were comprised of undergraduate and graduate students, and professional school students, from a wide array of fields.

The teams got their assignment on March 24. They convened on campus over the weekend and Emory announced the following results late on March 29:

  • First place: The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center;
  • Second place: Johns Hopkins University;
  • Third Place – University of Alberta;
  • Honorable Mention – University of Minnesota;
  • Participants Choice Award – UT Southwestern Medical Center;
  • Innovation Award – Mount Sinai University.

GE remained in the role of signature sponsor of this year’s event, as it has since 2011. Other sponsors include Dayna International, John Snow, Inc., the Pendleton Group, and the Red Rock Brewing Co., according to Emory’s statement.

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

What are your thoughts?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.