Conference Reflections

Shawn:  The conference has been a great experience for me, especially on the topic of access to medicine. As a high school senior, I am looking forward to a career in biomedical research and medicine, and am very likely to work in the pharmaceutical industry. This conference led me to see the deeper problems within the conflict between access and innovation, and also creative ideas in solving this particular issue.

Liam: The world health summit was an amazing experience that is difficult to define using words. Over the last 3 days, we have gotten the opportunity to be equals with people who make global change on a daily basis. One experience that I had was during a session on youth leadership in the health field. I had heard about this session from a woman from Vietnam who I had previously spoke to. She told me about how she had been doing work as one of the youngest physicians in Vietnam. But at this session on youth leadership, many young physicians spoke about their work and how to help empower youth in different communities.

During this discussion, people turned towards us from BHS to share our experiences as youth leaders in the world of global health. As I and others spoke to them, it was extremely empowering. To share, combine, and listen to ideas with such inspirational leaders was a fantastic experience. Along with this, the other youth leaders listened to what I had said and responded, giving valuable advice that I can use in the future for the BHS Global Leadership Club. In conclusion, this session was just one of many where it was amazing to feel empowered as a youth and contribute my ideas to a conversation where inspirational people listened and who I will be able to contact in the future, just one of many amazing experiences here in Berlin.

Milena: “Men should care because women matter!” It was those inspirational words from our own Mr. Kahrl that got people cheering, crying and excited to make a difference. On the last day of the conference, almost everyone in the Brookline High School group decided to attend a session called gender responsive governance. During the session, we got the opportunity to collaboratively discuss gender inequalities, why they happen, and how to fix them. One of the points that was brought up during these discussions was that women having equal opportunities would not only be helpful for the women, but would also be beneficial for men.

As the talk came to a close, the issue of involving men in this fight for equity was brought up, and the question of the best way to get men involved was opened to the three men in the room (all of whom were from BHS). Mr. Kahrl responded to this inquiry by saying that it is garbage to say that we should fight for equality for women because it will also benefit men. He went on to say a brief summary of all the essential rights women are not allowed, and finish by stating them at men should care because women matter. This statement caused a couple of students to tear up and the entire session to burst into applause. I think that those inspirational words deserve recognition and I thank Mr. Kahrl for showing us all what an impact it can have when you speak your mind.

Megha: The conference was an amazing experience that not only taught me more about the health issues around the globe, but it also taught me how to interact with professionals and people outside the little bubble we know in Brookline. Many of the speakers and attendees were extremely intelligent academics, which as a high school student, are people we are not used to connecting with. Personally, at the start of the conference, I was very intimidated by sheer number of professionals, and trying to talk to them was very difficult and nerve-racking. As the first couple sessions went by, however, it became easier to mold into the environment and begin interactions with random people and many times speakers after their presentation. The speakers were often very willing to answer questions and spend a bit of their time talking to you. They were very impressed at our being the youngest attendants of the conference and were very kind in offering their help whenever possible. During one session in particular, on cardiovascular diseases, the atmosphere was wonderful as there wasn’t a barrier between the listeners and presenters, but a whole group feel. Questions were asked in the middle of the speakers’ talks, and the room was a very open place. Even so, when I had a question, I still got very nervous to the point of my hands shaking as I took notes. Being high schoolers in a very adult setting is intimidating as you don’t want to look like you don’t belong by asking a dumb question, but I just sucked it up and asked. Maansi and Quinn had already asked a question, so that gave me reassurance. When I asked, I was taken seriously just like any other adult in the room, and that is a feeling I can’t describe. The speaker told me that my question was a very good one and when I talked to him after, we had a longer conversation about what I had asked. I was no longer afraid to put myself out there and it was very amazing to feel. Overall, the conference was an experience I would never trade for anything.

Mr. Kahrl:  Like at the Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen, Denmark in May 2016, Brookline High School students are the only high school aged participants at a global health conference, in this case the World Health Summit. Topics range from easily accessible topics like the use of drones to deliver health medication to more obscure ones such as translational health care and the opacity of the patent system in regards to health care.

In so doing, they find they can look beyond the conference to see possibilities for their own schooling now, whether to continue to attend additional conferences, organize events for Brookline High School, or pursuing individual opportunities like internships for themselves. Time and time again, students have made themselves part of these conversations, either during or after the sessions. In every session I have attended with students, they have asked insightful and thoughtful questions. They are often among the first people to raise their hands to ask questions. The questions are topical, insightful, and pertinent. They are willing to have their voices heard and emerge excited that they have both a chance to share with their peers the triumph of finding their own courage to enter this arena and simultaneously operate at this level and explore opportunities in global health.

Ms. Mains: It was great to see the students participating so fully in the conference (while being respectful of the expertise of the presenters and other participants). They clearly learned a lot of content regarding health issues, but also were reflective about how to make in impact. They took note of presentation styles and action strategies presented at the conference, and grappled with how one gets a point across successfully and how an individual or group can bring about significant change. I’ve been particularly impressed by how committed these students are to taking what they learn back to BHS and the wider community at home. It would be easy for our students to enjoy the conference experience, use the information for personal development, and go back to business as usual upon return. Instead they are already beginning to plan how to share their knowledge at BHS, aiming to involve a broader group of students in global health work and to make a real impact on health issues. For example, some members of the group have begun to plan a day of education for the BHS community on immigrant and refugee issues; they’ve already drawn up a list of people to contact within and outside of BHS. By taking actions like these, they are using what they’ve gained from this conference as a springboard to become local leaders in global health.

Mr. Gardner (parent of participant): I wanted to share this lovely thank you note from Dr. Jo Ivey Boufford, a key speaker at the WHS and an inspiring leader in the world of medicine and public health. …The BHS group [attended] her session and [met] with her afterwards.

Dear James:
Had a lovely meeting with your terrific daughter and her friends—clearly leaders of the future.  Think they enjoyed our Young Physician Leaders session.  Thanks for the connection and congratulations to you and your wife for a great young person!
Jo

JO IVEY BOUFFORD, MD
President
212-822-7201 | Office

The New York Academy of Medicine
1216 Fifth Avenue | New York, NY 10029
212-996-7826 | Fax

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