Student driven global health at University of Oregon

Nestled in the Willamette Valley just two hours south of Portland lies the city of Eugene, Oregon. Known for its amicable residents, eccentric vibe and surplus of outdoor activities, the Emerald City is also home to roughly 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students who attend the University of Oregon. Should you visit campus on a sunny day, you can find students lounging on the Knight Library lawn, the steps of the Erb Memorial Student Union, or the benches outside of the historic Deady Hall. If you’re signed up for a tour, you’d learn that our campus is an arboretum with well over 3,000 trees, or that the newly-renovated Chapman Hall is a zero-waste facility.

You’d also learn about the new global health minor: the student-driven, student-initiated program within the International Studies Department, designed for those in gaining focused curricular concentration and experience in global health.

“Students told me right away that they were interested in more than just a concentration in a major,” says Kristin Yarris, in a UO Today interview. “They wanted a minor; they wanted a major in global health.”

Yarris, an assistant professor of the International Studies Department at the University of Oregon, is an expert on transnational migration and the faculty director for the global health minor. Additionally, she is heavily affiliated with the University’s Center for Global Health: a new interdisciplinary center that supports a wide range of scientific, educational, and service-oriented initiatives designed to understand and ameliorate the world’s most challenging health and social problems. Yarris’ support, dedication and tenacity in both the conception and development of the minor are what helped bring this process to completion, where over 40 students now carry the global health minor with the same pride and passion. Yarris notices this, too.

“There is an active student group on this campus called Students for Global Health,” she says, in the same UO Today Interview. “I started working with them about three years ago, and they pushed faculty to respond to their interest.”

The same student group is currently pushing toward yet another large opportunity for the University, taking place this spring, April 20-22nd.

The opportunity comes in the form of the 14th annual Western Regional Global Health Conference (previously the Western Regional International Health Conference). Hosted at the University of Washington and various west coast universities in its previous years, the conference focuses on the continuously shifting climate of global health and its relevance in today’s landscape. The theme of this year? “Change Makers: the Essential Role of Women in Global Health.”

“Women have traditionally been the most widely discriminated-against group globally,” says Grant Klausen, the Students for Global Health Events Director. “We still see those dramatic repercussions today, in both health outcomes and healthcare leadership, which is why this conference will aim to explore sustainable solutions in creating a more egalitarian healthcare landscape.”

“Women really play an integral role in every level and discipline of global health, and for too long the voices of these women have been ignored,” says Andrew Pardi, the Executive Director of Students for Global Health. “It’s important to shift the focus on the invaluable work done by women around the world, from local community health workers in Malawi to genetic researchers in the United States.”

As an ode to the theme, the speaker line-up is heavily female-centric, from keynote Dr. Araceli Alonso from the University of Wisconsin-Madison to the University of Oregon’s own Dr. Barbara Mossberg. Other plenary speakers include Dr. Chunhuei Chi from Oregon State University’s Center for Global Health, as well as Dr. David Bangsberg, Dean of Students for the OHSU MPH program.

The conference will take place at the University of Oregon, in Eugene, Oregon, from April 20-22nd. The registration link can be found at www.wrghc2018.wordpress.com, as well as information regarding the schedule, speaker biographies and contact information.

“We’d like to give a generous thank you to our sponsors–the University of Washington, the Oregon Health and Science University, Oregon State University, the Rosie Center of Eugene, the University of Oregon’s Women’s Center, Holt International, Mobility International USA, GlobalPDX, and the University of Oregon’s Center for Global Health,” says Andrew Pardi. “Our goal for this conference is to get people to realize that global health is linked to all our lives, and regardless of how insurmountable a problem may seem, everyone can make a difference by thinking globally and acting locally.”

Written by Zoe Cameron