Grand Challenges Tackles the Ebola 2015 Symposia

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Grand Challenges team seeks to improve communication and foster relationships between world health organizations and local communities in West Africa in order to minimize the impacts of infectious diseases, such as Ebola.

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The current Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak has devastated entire countries and has claimed over 8,000 lives. However, it has also inspired one Grand Challenges team to take action to revolutionize public health. The Disease Divas are working to improve communication and foster relationships between world health organizations and local communities in West Africa in order to minimize the impacts of infectious diseases, such as Ebola. For weeks, they have been buried in reports, emails, and web articles trying to glean every ounce of information about the current Ebola outbreak. This research was extremely helpful, but there were still countless aspects of their problem space they failed to fully understand. On Tuesday, January 6th, they discovered the Ebola 2015 Symposia taking place in Oxford, England. They knew attending an international conference on a week’s notice would be a long shot, but the leaders of Grand Challenges had plane tickets for them that afternoon! The team decided that Ann Johnson and Lauren Aycock would be the representatives, and the remainder of the week flew by as they prepared for their imminent adventure. 

Upon their return, it was impossible for Lauren and Ann to describe just how amazing this experience was for them. The students were able to talk to a range of experts, from pharmaceutical engineers and public health officials, to doctors who had recently been treating patients on the ground. It was incredible for them to have the opportunity to ask these individuals about the problems they observe in this outbreak, as well as what these experts thought about the students’ project. Several people Lauren and Ann talked to were excited about what their team is trying to do, and many of them even wanted to help. Every session during the symposia was enlightening for the students. Ann and Lauren furiously took forty pages of notes, trying to capture every word and idea from the speakers. They gained valuable insight into the roots of the real issues, not just the surface level ramifications they had previously focused on. Their conversations were stimulating, and they returned home with countless ideas for their project. Perhaps the most valuable part of the symposium was the incredible networking opportunities. Ann and Lauren were able to trade contact information with individuals they would never otherwise have access to. In fact, Lauren received an email from a doctor at Public Health England before she had even landed back in Atlanta!

Moving forward, the Disease Divas are so energized to take a fresh look at their problem space and identify where they can make the greatest impact. With the information they’ve learned and the experts Lauren and Ann have met over the past week, this team can also move beyond looking at just the problems and start focusing on creating the solutions. This experience was life changing for Ann and Lauren, and the women reported they could not ask for a better way to learn about their problem space and get first-hand advice from public health experts. “This experience confirmed that Grand Challenges was the perfect program me, and I can’t express enough how grateful I am to be a part of it,” Lauren said.   

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Grand Challenges

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Student Research
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Keywords
Ebola, grand challenges
Status
  • Created By: Kari White
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: Jan 21, 2015 - 10:06am
  • Last Updated: Oct 7, 2016 - 11:17pm