For 2015, the event focused on the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals. Experts, representing various fields of global health, discussed their thoughts on achievements towards meeting these goals, and areas of needed improvement in the years ahead.
From Ebola to malaria
A special event was held to discuss the Ebola crisis -- what went wrong, what was successful, how to plan for early detection and what health organizations should do in the future to prevent widespread exposure. Other topics, including pediatric AIDS, health disparities and the role of mobile technology in health initiatives, also were discussed.
At the student and faculty dinner that same evening, a photo contest showcased images submitted by students and staff from their travels. The display served as a moving reminder of the influence dedicated healthcare workers can have on the lives of those in need, and highlighted the importance of the topics that were addressed during the week. The next night featured a charity basketball game, a new addition this year, benefiting "Nothing but Nets," an organization that provides malaria nets to people in malaria-affected areas.
A collaborative, student-oriented focus
Each event was planned and executed by a committee made up of first- and second-year students in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, as well as those in public health and dental programs. Students who applied for a position on the planning committee were ultimately selected by their peers to assist in preparing the event. The UCLA Center for World Health leadership, faculty and staff — including Dr. Thomas J. Coates, Dr. Gitanjli Arora and Dr. Traci Wells — served as advisers, but the driving forces behind the week's events were the students' enthusiasm and vision for global health.
From deciding the week's theme to personally inviting esteemed experts to speak, students coordinated and executed events to expand the reach of GHAW week to all students at UCLA. Those studying health sciences, public health, nursing and dentistry — as well as undergraduates students — were among the ones who accepted a campus-wide invitation to participate in the lunchtime talks, film screenings and discussions. Dr. Arora, GHAW committee adviser, explained that the efforts to expand the event reflect a focus on collaborative effort: "We really tried to reach out to the whole campus, because it takes more than just physicians to create sustainable solutions."
The passion for global health in these medical students comes from their very core, she explains. "It's the same reason why they are interested in medicine to begin with; they want to help people. Borders don't limit them. They want to be of service wherever there is a need."
In America and on campus
The week's events also benefit physicians and other graduates who remain stateside as they improve the health of patients in their backyards. "In L.A., physicians are caring for patients of diverse backgrounds, as it's estimated that 35 percent of Los Angeles residents are foreign born," says Dr. Wells, a statistic echoed by the U.S. Census Bureau. "Developing the necessary skills required to care for multicultural patients is really important."
The campus's interest in global health has only been growing, evidenced by dramatically higher enrollment in the special selective course offered in the fall. Events like these, which bring the importance of global health to the forefront, are crucial to showing the student body the effect that they can have on developing health systems