News

Post date: Wednesday, December 12, 2018 - 10:06am

Improving the health of all populations — from lung cancer survivors in the Chicago area to trauma victims in Bolivia and LGBTQ+ groups in Nepal — was at the heart of Feinberg’s inaugural IPHAM Population Health Forum, where scientists and community partners presented their work in a wide diversity of areas.

The forum, held December 4 and attended by faculty, staff, students and community partners, was hosted by the Institute for Public Health and Medicine (IPHAM), Feinberg’s home for public health activities.

The event’s keynote speech was delivered by Sandro Galea, MD, MPH, DrPH, dean and Robert A. Knox Professor at Boston University School of Public Health, who discussed the opioid, gun and obesity epidemics and the vital role of population health research in curbing them.

“These are the epidemics of our time,” Galea said. “And there are particular population health science approaches that we must take if we want to deal with these epidemics. If we do not do that, we are complicit in the advancement of these epidemics.”

In particular, Galea discussed four key principles of population health science and how they can provide insights into the epidemics. He also cautioned against seeking simple solutions.

“We come from a place where we elevate the notion of simple interventions. Unfortunately, we are dealing with complex causes for complex epidemics,” he said. “We need to have the confidence to say these are complex population systems — and our science and our recommendations should approach them as such.”

Read more here. 

Post date: Wednesday, December 12, 2018 - 9:27am

“You’re the researcher. You tell us.”

Those few words set anthropology professor Sera Young on a course toward ending food and water insecurity worldwide.

While studying maternal anemia in Zanzibar in 2006, Young spoke with pregnant women to learn about their dietary habits. It was during these discussions that one woman, sitting on the floor of her home, removed a chunk of clay from the wall and ate it.

Young would learn that this was a relatively common behavior in Zanzibar: pregnant women craved clay, dirt, sand and other non-food substances, and they ate them, sometimes multiple times a day.

When Young asked people in the village why women were doing this, the wife of a traditional healer pushed Young to answer that question herself.

“She gave me my first job,” Young says of the healer’s wife.

Young spent years researching pica, a condition in which people crave and consume non-food substances. Pica, Young would find, is not relegated to pregnant women or developing countries — it’s much more widespread.

“In the U.S., you can buy clay online and have it delivered discreetly to your house,” Young says. “Graveyard dirt is used in certain voodoo potions. There’s a grotto in Bethlehem where supposedly a drop of the virgin Mary’s milk spilled, and some people believe that if you eat that earth, your milk supply will increase and your fertility will improve.”

Beyond the religious or superstitious, Young says eating clay might act as an anti-diarrheal, thereby preventing deaths from contaminated water or food.

Young went on to write a book about pica, called "Craving Earth," which won the 2013 Margaret Mead Award from the Society for Applied Anthropology and the American Anthropological Association.

Read more here.

Post date: Wednesday, December 12, 2018 - 9:26am

This past summer, alumnus Brad Radulovacki ’83 brought together his love for Northwestern, commitment to philanthropy and strong personal connection to Serbia to create a unique opportunity for Northwestern’s global health students.

In June, Radulovacki’s ancestral hometown of Sremski Karlovci in Serbia hosted sixteen Northwestern students on the Comparative Public Health: Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina program, which is administered by the Office for Undergraduate Learning Abroad.

The program, comprised of four weeks of study at the University of Belgrade, followed by four weeks at the University of Sarajevo, presented itself to Radulovacki as a unique opportunity to tie in his late father's philanthropic legacy with his own charitable support of Northwestern's global health offerings.

So, he organized and led a full day of activities in the region for the students. Grant Radulovacki ’17, his oldest son and a recent Northwestern graduate, also joined his father on the trip. 

Students visited Novi Sad, Serbia’s second largest city, and the nearby Petrovaradin Fortress. They also toured the Eco Center Radulovacki, a non-profit organization endowed by Radulovacki's late father that runs environmental protection and youth education programs; explored the historic baroque town of Sremski Karlovci and enjoyed a boat ride on the Danube River to an island nature reserve, where the Eco Center conducts research.

"Having the students experience the ecological center and learn about the history of Sremski Karlovci — and connect global health studies and my Serbian heritage, turned out to be a great way for me to engage with students and give back to Northwestern," Radulovacki said. 

For Zachary Li, a junior on the program studying neuroscience and global health, the excursion helped him understand the broader historical and geographical context of the region.

"It was beautiful to first see the quaint town of Sremski Karlovci and later the larger city of Novi Sad," Li said. "We learned a lot by visiting the Eco Center, and it showed us that there's so much more to Serbia than Belgrade."

Read more here. 

Post date: Wednesday, December 12, 2018 - 9:22am

Noelle Sullivan describes her pedagogical goals as teaching “How the World Works, How to Speak and Write to be Heard, and the Effect on and Engagement with Wider Communities.”  Students’ comments consistently identified a sense of profound learning aligned to these goals.  A student wrote that Sullivan developed students’ ability to “not only check our assumptions at the door, but also examine and understand the structures which gave us these biases in the first place.”  Another student described that “Dr. Sullivan made me realize that the smartest person in the room…is not someone who hides behind elaborate language but (is) someone with the audacity, self-awareness, and humility to communicate in an inclusive way that engages others from different backgrounds.” A student described Sullivan’s wider impact as “cultivating an educational environment where students and faculty honestly engage with each other to expand knowledge, passions, and personal growth.” 

Sullivan’s department chair credits her with taking “important leadership roles in curricular and program development with Global Health Studies (GHS) and the College.” Her “innovations with the introductory course have been particularly important and influential,” and the methodological training her students received “dramatically improved the quality and impact of the independent research projects frequently carried out by GHS students.” Sullivan is committed to undergraduate research and has supervised numerous undergraduate honors theses and independent research projects, served as a mentor for GlobMed and Project Rishi, and has invited students into her own research projects.  

Sullivan was named to the Associated Student Government Faculty Honor Roll in 2015-16.  She is an Assistant Professor of Instruction in the Global Health Studies Program.  She received her Ph.D. and M.A. in Anthropology from the University of Florida, M.A. in African American Studies from the University at Albany, and her B.A. in Anthropology and History from the University of Victoria, Canada. 

Read more about other award winners here. 

Post date: Wednesday, December 12, 2018 - 9:17am

When U.S. relations were normalized with Cuba more than three years ago, Northwestern worked with nonprofits and governmental agencies to try to open those doors even further. Since then, despite a shifting political climate, the university has continued to foster academic collaborations with Cuba by sending researchers to the country and by forging a partnership with a Cuban university.

In December, Northwestern signed an official memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the University of Havana Manuel Fajardo School of Medicine, a signal of intent to promote potential collaborations and research exchanges between the two institutions.

“We have a lot of interest from faculty and students who would like to conduct research or study in Cuba,” said Kim Rapp, assistant vice president for international relations at Northwestern. “Northwestern has had a presence in Cuba for a few years, and we’d like to stay connected and work with partners there.”

In 2017, Northwestern began exploring expanded partnerships in Cuba after receiving a grant from Partners of the Americas to enhance academic opportunities in the country. A particular emphasis was placed on forging collaborations related to medical education. 

In June of that year, a cohort of eight Northwestern faculty members and administrators traveled to the University of Havana to meet with potential collaborators at its medical school and related research institutions.

Northwestern researchers weren’t as familiar with the Cuban public health landscape, but they knew of its successes. The country’s infant mortality rate is 4.5 deaths per 1,000 infants, which is lower than the United States’ rate of 5.8, and the average life expectancy is 79 years, compared to the United States’ 78.7.

Read more here. 

Post date: Wednesday, December 12, 2018 - 9:15am

Twenty-four Northwestern students and alumni comprise the newest class of globe-trotting scholars and winners of 2017-18 Fulbright U.S. Student Program — one of the most widely recognized and respected international exchange programs in the world. 

The flagship international educational exchange program of the U.S. government, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program provides grants to teach, conduct research, study or participate in specialized internships.

For the past decade, Northwestern has ranked among the top Fulbright-producing research institutions in the country. The University is one of only a handful of universities to appear on every “top producing” Fulbright U.S. Student Program list published by the Chronicle of Higher Education since 2005.

The Fulbright competition is administered at Northwestern through the Office of Fellowships. The Northwestern campus application deadline is always early September for awards beginning almost a year later. Graduating seniors, alumni, and graduate students with U.S. passports are eligible to apply through Northwestern.

Read more about the winners here. 

Post date: Wednesday, December 12, 2018 - 9:08am

Northwestern University’s Program in Global Health Studies is among a select group of university programs awarded with the 2018 IIE Andrew Heiskell Awards for Innovation in International Education, the Institute of International Education (IIE) announced today.

The awards honor the most outstanding initiatives in international higher education, highlighting programs that remove institutional barriers and broaden the base of participation in international teaching and learning.

This is the second time Northwestern has received this prestigious award. In 2016, the university was highlighted for its multidimensional partnership with the elite French institution Sciences Po.

This year, Global Health Studies is being recognized by IIE with an honorable mention as a successful model for internationalizing the campus by advancing curriculum development and fostering international opportunities for both students and faculty.

The interdisciplinary program was established as an academic minor in 2004 by now-Vice President for International Relations Dévora Grynspan and Abraham Harris Professor of Anthropology William Leonard, who serves as the program director.

Since then, the program has greatly expanded and now draws students from all six undergraduate schools and colleges. With a consistent average of close to 300 students in the program each year, the demand for classes and research is high.

This past year, the university added an adjunct major and the Accelerated Public Health Program (APHP), a combined five-year bachelor’s degree/master’s of public health (MPH) curriculum, to its portfolio of offerings.

Read more here. 

Post date: Wednesday, December 12, 2018 - 9:05am

This summer, a group of medical students saw firsthand the struggle to strike a balance between appropriate pain management and overprescribing when they spent a month rotating through various hospitals and clinics in Quito, Ecuador.

Although the United States is currently experiencing an opioid epidemic, fueled by overprescription, such pain relievers are under-utilized throughout much of the world.

“While we were in Ecuador, we noticed that opioids and other pain management modalities seemed to be really underused,” said Grace Haser, who completed the trip with her fellow second-year medical students Paul Micevych, Jessica Marone, Jesse Shechter and Michael Musharbash. “As such, we wanted to use a case report as a way to highlight the need to find a middle ground between the overuse in the U.S. and underuse in Ecuador.”

The students presented their research — a case study on the pain management of a 60-year-old male with an incarcerated urinary catheter in the emergency department of a Quito public hospital — during a poster session at Feinberg’s Global Health Day on Monday, October 23.

Read more here.

Post date: Tuesday, November 7, 2017 - 2:40pm

By Mira Wang (Medill '18)

Dr. Julia Polk knows a thing or two about the path less taken.

After graduating from Northwestern University in 2007 with an anthropology major, global health minor and international experiences in Mexico and South Africa, Polk, whose name was Harris as an undergraduate student, went to Brazil for a year to conduct global health research at the National School of Public Health in Rio de Janeiro. Right afterwards, she moved to Beer Sheva, Israel, for a medical degree at Ben Gurion University, followed by an obstetrics and gynecology residency at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Now, she works as an OB/GYN and clinical instructor at Mount Sinai in New York City.

But Polk’s international experiences didn’t end with medical school; she still completes weeks-long trips in rural medical facilities in Liberia two to three times a year. Just this past June, she went to train nurses and midwives in the field.

Post date: Tuesday, November 7, 2017 - 2:36pm

By Noelle Sullivan and Nicole Berry

According to Volunteer World, an online international volunteer placement platform, “International voluntary work plays a key role in delivering and implementing the Sustainable Development Goals,” such that “Volunteer World provides the chance to become active and help reach the SDG Goal #03 Good Health And Well-Being.” For prospective volunteers wanting to work in health facilities, available placement countries are predominantly located in the global South. Hosting health facilities appear remarkably similar in their need for foreign helpers willing to travel, regardless of whether they are in Tanzania or Guatemala.

The proliferation of online clinical placement companies like Volunteer World echoes a wider trend familiar to many of us working at universities in the global North: Global health travel is “hot.” Short-term medical missions, international health electives, volunteer placements—there’s something seductive about the idea of going to a place seemingly “in need” and “making a difference,” while having new experiences in the process.

For prospective global health travelers, the coexistence of poverty and medical need seems sufficient rationale to pack one’s bags and fly to a foreign country to “help.” Global health travelers operate under the compelling assumption that somehow their medicine is universal and that it will be universally appreciated by individuals experiencing presumed pervasive need.

Yet, within the hosting country, context challenges these presumptions. Assuming that populations are primed to receive whatever well-meaning help arrives mistakenly prioritizes volunteers themselves as protagonists. Indeed, such a narrative problematically dichotomizes volunteers as actors and poor populations as passive receivers—a form of decontextualized travel Teju Cole aptly terms “the white savior industrial complex.”

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