Global Health Begins at Home: MCHSO Hosts Virtual Symposium

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The Maternal and Child Health Student Organization (MCHSO) at the USF College of Public Health (COPH) held its 12th annual symposium on March 4-5.

The MCHSO serves as a forum for all students interested in maternal and child health issues. This annual event aims to bring students, faculty, staff and community partners together to discuss timely issues that impact women, children and families.

The theme of this year’s event was “Creating a Better Tomorrow: Prioritizing the Global Strategy.” Sessions were divided into global strategy themes: survive, thrive and transform.

For the first time in the organization’s history, the annual symposium was delivered 100 percent online.

“This provided a unique advantage,” Tatiana Gerena, the research and education chair for MCHSO, noted. “Not only could we reach a broader audience virtually, but more speakers and panelists could be invited.” Some of the out-of-state speakers to participate included:

  • Dr. Pierre Buekens, director of the Center for Emerging Reproductive and Perinatal Epidemiology at Tulane University
  • Dr. Supriya Mehta, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Dr. Sawsan Abdulrahim, associate professor at the American University of Beirut
MCHSO 2021 Symposium Planning Committee (left to right, starting with top row): Tatiana Gerena, Sharonda Lovett, Morgan Richardson Cayama, Monise Harris, Maria Sans, Endora Ankrah, Rafaella Stein Elger, Cassandra Garza, Jakira Lewis, Diana Prieto. (Photo courtesy of Lovett)

The symposium began with opening remarks from Gerena and Dean Donna Petersen, who emphasized that global health begins at home. Presentations by Drs. David Himmelgreen, USF professor of anthropology, and Lynette Menezes, COPH alumna and assistant vice president of the Health International Program at USF Health, articulated why it’s important to invest in vulnerable populations, especially during public health crises.

At the conclusion of Day 1 activities, there was an interprofessional skill-building workshop facilitated by MCHSO leaders. Symposium attendees formed interprofessional teams to design a sustainable solution focused on HIV/AIDS in Thailand. Through this case study, participants were able to apply some of the ethical and cultural considerations learned in other sessions to a real-world problem.

Day 2 activities began with opening remarks from MCHSO President Sharonda Lovett. “The global strategy is considered a roadmap to accelerate optimal health for women and children,” Lovett said. “Having the opportunity to hear from distinguished researchers and leaders in the field contributing to this work was invaluable.”

Following these remarks, a panel of USF professors discussed transformative global health and the value of faculty-student research. Drs. Russell Kirby, Jaime Corvin, Kebreab Ghebremichael, Miguel Reina Ortiz, and Abraham Salinas-Miranda also shed light on various factors that influence access to resources and the charge to eliminate disparities across systems. The symposium ended with an in-depth dive into maternal mortality led by Dr. William Sappenfield, director of the Chiles Center and Florida Perinatal Quality Collaborative.

“I enjoyed the virtual format of the symposium … it was really engaging, and each segment was very informative” said Alyssa Persad, a first-year MPH student with a concentration in global health practice. “The presentations were eye-opening and educational. Hearing about the speakers’ work in international settings has inspired me to work harder toward my goals of bringing accessible healthcare to global communities.”

Access to the presentations and supporting materials can be found here.

Story by Sharonda Lovett and Tatiana Gerena with Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health