Seth Morrison, Elizabeth Van Dyne, MD ( '09) and Kristie Hadley at this year's CUGH conference.

       Recently I had the opportunity to attend the annual conference for the Consortium of Universities in Global Health (CUGH). CUGH aims to bring together universities, educators, and students across the globe who are working at the forefront of global health to share ideas and create better educational practices. The theme of this year’s conference was “Universities 2.0: Advancing Global Health in the Post-MDG Era.”     

Two debates sessions in particular stick in my memory by the topic and carefully researched points. One addressed the past and present of global health, and a second examined the future. The first debate motion was: “Global health investments benefit countries of the global North more than those of the global South.” Arguing the pro-side was Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of the Lancet; on the con-side was Nelson K. Sewankambo from Makarere University, Uganda. Both sides argued excellent points that set the tone for the rest of the conference. The pro side presented a critical critique of Global Health, urging us to ask the hard question of who benefits? Thus opening a dialogue for reflection and self criticism. The con side offered a more hopeful message, that progress towards health equity was apparent, even amid the setbacks and struggles. 

MSIH co-director Richard Deckelbaum leading a discusson on Food security, health and nutrition at the 2014 CUGH conference.

The second debate, “The Next Dollar in Global Health Should Be in Demand, Not Supply” touched on the future of global health investments. Amanda Glassman from the Center for Global Development, USA argued the pro side: the money should go straight to the individuals, families, and communities who need them money, the demand, as they are the ones who know best how it should be spent. Conversely, the con side, Jishnu Das, Lead Economist from the Development Research Group of the World Bank, argued that the money is best spent when given to the government and NGO’s, the supply, because they can provide comprehensive services that need a level of coordination and expertise that individuals cannot provide. Both sides presented conscientious and thorough arguments, demonstrating that there is more than one way to work towards health equity. The future will require flexible thinking, creative solutions, and a willingness to look beyond traditional strategies.

            Other highlights of the conference include: listening Dr. Richard Deckelbaum, the New York Director of MSIH, moderate a discussion on “Food Security, Health, and Nutrition”; meeting MSIH Alumnus Elizabeth Van Dyne, MD ('09) and learning about her work in Tibet; and learning about an innovative course at Vanderbilt University that uses metacognition as a basis in understanding the complexities of medicine and of themselves as future medical professionals. I was continuously excited about which sessions to attend, and disappointed that in doing so, I was missing out on other topics.

            Overall, as a medical student nearing the last stretch of my first year at MSH, the conference was a great opportunity to learn more about my chosen profession on the larger scale and to think critically about my future career in practicing global health. How can my own path be guided by the failures and successes of those before me? How can I ask the hard questions, remaining self-critical and reflective, while avoiding the action paralysis than can accompany such critique? How can I use the education and resources that I have in order to best work for health equity in my own local community, and in the greater global community? In the daily grind of medical school, I often find myself forgetting to ask myself these essential questions, and to remind myself the reasons why I chose to pursue learning and service in global health. This conference reminded me of the vital importance of remembering the greater purpose of my medical studies and refreshed my vision for the practice of global health.

For more information on the conference or the work of CUGH visit

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