Global Health Diplomacy Symposium

On Thursday, May 31 I attended a Global Health Diplomacy Symposium at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The Symposium focused on past, present, and cases in international health diplomacy, analyzing the relationships between nations and how they determine the outcomes of global health issues. In Session I, historical examples of international health crises including polio and the past Ebola outbreak were analyzed by a number of experts who provided insight into what worked, what didn’t, and what we’ve learned as a result.

After this, the attendees broke out into small groups and role-played a fictional case in which different stakeholding groups were to coordinate an international response to a health crisis. Specifically, this scenario involved a population of refugees fleeing a natural disaster who had recently become ill with an unknown respiratory disease in their neighboring country. Organizations such as the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, Doctors Without Borders, and the government of the nation hosting the refugees were all represented and were to discuss managing the situation given the unique agenda of each player. To me, this exercise was the perfect representation of why I enjoyed my time in D.C. so much. Our small group had members representing the human health profession, environmental science, veterinary medicine, and foreign affairs offices. Each person was there because they had a genuine interest in global health diplomacy and had a unique set of skills to bring to the table. Everyone was interested in learning what skills the others had to offer in a situation of consequence, and I learned just as much from hearing about others’ career paths as I did from the case study itself.

Following the case study, Session II illuminated contemporary issues in global health diplomacy and the different strategies currently being employed in response. Afterwards, Session III brought experts to the stage to discuss future directions for players in global health diplomacy, with a focus on chronic disease and aging as major health issues that will emerge to new extents in the 21st century. The symposium was concluded with remarks from the past US Ambassador to Burkina Faso and Uganda.

This symposium was a great way to end my time as an extern in D.C. I left AAAS that day motivated to push my career in the direction of international development and global food security so that I too can one day have a positive impact on issues on a global scale.