McDonnell Scholar Blog: Improving our society on a big scale

stethoscope on map

It was my pleasure and privilege to attend Washington University’s 7th International Symposium in Beijing. Business leaders who ran multinational companies and some of the world’s most accomplished academics were present at the symposium.

The concentration of leaders from different disciplines lent a great opportunity to listen to interdisciplinary methods of addressing the world’s most pressing issues in public health, agriculture, and clean energy.

Jae Lee_headshot

Jae Lee, McDonnell Scholar from the School of Medicine (MD)

Listening to and building personal relationships with these fabulously accomplished individuals gives me confidence that improving our society on a big scale is attainable for us given enough hard work, vision, and conviction.

As the C.E.O. of a non-profit organization Empower Through Health (ETH), which provides direct health care to 20,000 people in Uganda, is conceptualizing a medical school and conducts various research projects, I also enjoyed the workshop on U.S.–China–Africa global health partnerships. We heard African, Chinese, and American perspectives on global health. China, being a relatively new entrant to global health, has an amazing opportunity to learn from mistakes in global health and initiate its global health strategy avoiding errors made by other nations. All representatives emphasized the importance of having equal partnerships with African researchers— a notion I highly resonate with. All of ETH’s projects are conceptualized from the beginning with Ugandan input and equal collaboration. Too often, projects are written without local input and many opportunities to improve the project are missed.

I was also impressed by Tsinghua University’s robust international student program. About a dozen international masters’ in public health student of Tsinghua University were present In the audience of the U.S.–China–Africa workshop. They hailed from many different places, such as Zambia, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, India, and Pakistan. Chinese justification for its international program was that not only it builds local capacity to improve global health, but also that the international students will collaborate with Chinese universities in global health work in the future. It was good to see Tsinghua University taking a leadership in a role in addressing global issues.

Further, we (ETH) found a potentially exciting collaboration opportunity with Fudan University on a maternal and child health global health project in Uganda. One of the directors of ETH, Dr. Peter Waiswa, is a Ugandan physician and public health expert based at Makerere University who is renowned for his work in maternal and child health. The representatives of Fudan University conduct maternal and child health implementation research in Ethiopia. We are looking forward to initiating a U.S.–China–Africa collaboration with researchers from Fudan University, Makerere University, and Washington University to develop innovative solutions to reduce maternal mortality in Uganda.

Attending the International Symposium in Beijing was incredibly educational and inspirational. I appreciate the opportunity that Washington University provided me, and I look forward to further exploring U.S.-China-Africa collaboration to work together to make our world a place where people have better health, and consequently, more agency to determine their own destinies.