From war-torn Somalia to the mountains of Rwanda, the Global Health Summit, hosted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), Harvard Medical School (HMS), and Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), provided attendees an inside look at the inspiring work of leading global health experts.

The event’s keynote panel discussion, “To Alleviate Human Suffering: Our Work to Strengthen Global Healthcare,” was moderated by Robin Young, co-host of “Here & Now” on NPR and WBUR. She spoke with  Dr. Paul Farmer, Dr. Nawal Nour, and Dr. Atul Gawande on how they began their careers in global health, what they have learned, and the experiences that have shaped them as leaders. (All three have been named MacArthur Fellows.)

For Dr. Farmer, the decision to work in global health began in North Carolina, during his college years, while working with a Catholic nun to address the poor living conditions of Haitian farm workers. The experience also motivated him to change his focus from West Africa to Haiti.

Inspired by the efforts of her father to halt female circumcision in the Sudan, Dr. Nour founded the African Women’s Health Center at BWH in 1999. She described the challenges addressing the subtle and complex beliefs held by her patients, many of whom have experienced female genital cutting.

Beyond family and colleagues, Dr. Gawande reflected that he has found inspiration from his personal experiences in the U.S. and abroad – growing up in the poorest county in rural Ohio and visiting his father’s former village in India. He finds that his work as a researcher, physician, and writer helps him think about ways to address some of the most pressing issues in health care at his new center jointly created with BWH and HSPH, Ariadne Labs.

In another panel discussion, BWH surgeon Dr. Robert Riviello, Division of Trauma, Burns and Surgical Critical Care, and former BWH patient Dan Ponton, spoke about their partnership to build much-needed housing for doctors in Rwanda through the Daniel E. Ponton Fund at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Ponton observed that it doesn’t always take a doctor to successfully solve a health care problem.

“What makes global health work successfully is partnership,” concluded BWH President Dr. Betsy Nabel. “The ability to connect and work together is essential.”

You can view all three panel discussions through the Global Health playlist on our YouTube channel:

The Global Health Summit is one of several events sponsored by BWH this year as a part of its BluePrint celebration, which commemorates BWH’s history of innovation.

– Michelle C./Jamie R.

comments (0)