Uganda July 2016 – the Global Health Academy Summer School

Earlier this month, I was extremely fortunate to take part in the Global Health Academy summer school held this year in Makerere University, Uganda. For the first time, this year, invitations were extended to our program, fulltime Infectious Diseases by research masters students –in addition to the part-time online global health, eHealth, wildlife conservation, public health and infectious diseases master’s students. Tempted by the idea to get out of the lab and meet fellow students studying from distance, I immediately seized the opportunity, and, despite being close to the hand-in deadline for my thesis, it was totally worth it! Since it all happened really quickly and last minute, I didn’t really have time to create any expectative but had I had any, the experience definitely went beyond: what an experience!

The event and subsequent discussions that came up during the study sessions were a perfect illustration of the concept of One Health: sharing everybody’s opinions and point of view on different topics approached differently by students from different fields and disciplines, seeing how interconnected we all are and how interdisciplinary approaches are the best way to solve global issues. This highlighted the need for more communication and collaboration between disciplines: environment, health, technology, conservation, everything needs to be linked and if we can bring all those fields together towards a common objective, we can reach a much wider audience and raise awareness much more easily, hence solving problems a lot more efficiently.

Additionally, it was extremely inspiring to hear about other students’ projects and listen to the stories of alumni students; realise how their master’s program empowered them to set up their own projects and use the skills and knowledge they learnt to practically benefit their communities and make a difference. As the quote says: a picture is worth a thousand words, in this case, having the chance to see first-hand some of the great things some students are achieving was worth a thousand lectures. I was very encouraging to see how, despite being students, we can already start making a change and, through this kind of opportunities, network and get our classmates involved, support each other sharing our skills or spreading awareness and share ideas.

The trip to Budongo was the best example: seeing how Caroline is leading a dedicated team to fight for the protection of endangered species such as chimpanzees and build a strong hub of research on the species to better understand and design conservation strategies. The long walks patrolling in the search for snares also showed us how challenging and complex it can be to open the dialogue with traditional communities and find for them alternative ways of subsistence that do not harm the wildlife and surrounding ecosystem.

There is still a lot to be done, but this is the proof that with hard work and dedication, alumni of the University of Edinburgh are directly contributing to making a positive change across the world.

Elena Perez Fernandez, MSc Global Health: Infectious Diseases, University of Edinburgh

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