June 06, 2024

UAB attends global health symposium in Manipal, India

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manipal mainGlobal health partners from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) participated in the Global Health Consortium Symposium hosted by the Manipal Academy of Higher Education. This event served as a platform for students from collaborating universities to convene in Manipal, India, where they engaged in comprehensive learning experiences focused on health system mapping supported by faculty.

UAB is part of the Global Health Consortium of ten institutions in high- and low-income countries and participated in the symposium this year for the first time to gain crucial insights from diverse global partners. The consortium provides a robust academic network, offering students invaluable resources. Recognizing the potential benefits for both students and faculty, the symposium was offered as part of the UAB Master of Science in Global Health (MSGH) degree jointly provided by the UAB Heersink School of Medicine and the UAB School of Public Health.

Through a blend of field visits, stakeholder interviews, group collaboration, and expert-led lectures, students gained valuable insights into the intricacies of health care systems. Additionally, participants had the unique opportunity to showcase their ongoing research endeavors.

manipal students“UAB’s active participation and support of the symposium in Manipal, India, tangibly demonstrates the breadth of educational and professional development experiences our students should expect to get in the MSGH degree,” said Matt Heimann, M.D., associate director for Educational Programs for the UAB Mary Heersink Institute for Global Health (UAB MHIGH). “It is evident that they will be equipped with pragmatic research tools and be exposed to a global classroom that will translate into enhanced professional opportunities.”

Heimann and other MSGH degree leaders wanted to give students an invaluable firsthand experience by attending this event. Participants were able to interact with peers from diverse nationalities and backgrounds. The in-person platform for global engagement expanded their global networks and provided an opportunity to enhance their ability to operate seamlessly in a global health environment with collaborators from various backgrounds.

“Our MSGH degree is a uniquely innovative collaboration between the UAB schools of medicine and public health,” said Alan T. N. Tita, M.D., Ph.D., senior associate dean for Global and Women’s Health and UAB MHIGH Director. “By participating in a global consortium alongside nine other institutions in both low- and high-income countries, the program amplifies opportunities for our students and faculty to both engage in a global classroom of online core courses and then acquire hands-on experience in-person in India.”

With this being UAB's inaugural participation in the symposium since launching the MSGH degree, the primary objectives were centered on educational enrichment and collaborative group work, mapping local health systems in resource-constrained environments, and applying classroom-learned global health skills in practical settings. Moreover, it was anticipated that the symposium would provide a platform for international experts to offer tailored feedback on students' ongoing research projects, further enhancing their professional development.

manipal divya“I was deeply impressed with how the students were so supportive of each other during the weekend conference with all the thesis proposals and scholarly paper descriptions,” said Paul Erwin, M.D., dean of the UAB School of Public Health. “I know one of our students, Divya Annamalai, had a great experience at Manipal, and I look forward to returning next year with more students.”

The prospect of presenting their master's thesis research and meeting their virtual peers from McMaster University in person added significant appeal to the experience.

"The two-week experience, featuring exploration of the Indian health care system, collaborative group work, discussions with diverse individuals, and extensive networking seemed like a valuable opportunity," said Divya Annamalai, a research assistant for Sparkman Center for Global Health who was the first and sole MSGH student from UAB to attend the symposium.. "The opportunity allowed us to explore the mental health care system in Uddupi and identify both the gaps and strides, particularly concerning continuum of care.”

The cultural exchange within their group left a lasting impression, emphasizing the importance of cross-cultural communication and collaboration.

"The MSGH program has been incredibly rewarding... allowing me to expand my knowledge, perspectives, and innovative thinking in global health,” said Annamalai.

Looking ahead to her future endeavors in medical school, Annamalai aims to integrate her learnings to advance health equity and access.

manipal groupThe symposium's diverse participant base, comprising over 270 students from nine universities, facilitated valuable networking opportunities and exposure to high-impact material. To ensure successful participation, UAB's delegation undertook meticulous preparations. The opportunity was shared with students, orientation sessions were conducted, and support was enlisted from faculty at McMaster University and Maastricht University. Additionally, senior leaders from the UAB Heersink School of Medicine and the UAB School of Public Health provided vital support, both financially and through active participation in the symposium, underscoring the significance of the experience.

“In my almost 40 years of working in public health, I have never seen or experienced anything quite like this symposium in India,” said Erwin. “In a recent meeting with UAB leadership, Dean Agarwal and I were both able to report on what an incredible opportunity this was for UAB, and how uplifting it was to see students and faculty from such a wide range of countries working in solidarity to address the great global health challenges of our times.”

Both Dean Erwin and Anupam Agarwal, M.D., dean of the UAB Heersink School of Medicine, were excited to see the impact the symposium had on UAB students and looking forward to seeing the benefits of future opportunities available to MSGH students.

"UAB’s active participation and support of the Global Health Symposium in Manipal, India, exemplifies the rich educational and professional development experiences our MSGH students can expect," said Agarwal. "This engagement equips our students with invaluable research tools, real-world experience, and enhanced professional opportunities while forging global connections that benefit both UAB faculty and students."

The Global Health Consortium includes Ahfad University for Women (Sudan), Bangladesh University of Professionals (Bangladesh), Maastricht University (Netherlands), Manipal Academy of Higher Education (India), McMaster University (Canada), Niigata University (Japan), Thammasat University (Thailand), Universidad del Rosario (Columbia), University of Alabama at Birmingham (United States), and University of South-Eastern Norway (Norway).