By Anika Ruisch
In January, the school of Global Health selected a group of six students from different faculties to represent Copenhagen University at the Emory Global Health Case Competition in Atlanta in March: Benjamin Ebeling (medicines), Amrita Sankaranarayanan (pharmaceuticals), Rasmus Skov Knudsen (statistics), Kamilla Amalie Bech Kofoed (psychology), Pernille Friis Jensen (comparative religion) and myself, Anika Ruisch (global health).
For two months we prepared ourselves, given the fact that we had no clue about the case topic, this was quite an interesting process that involved a lot of speculation. Two weeks before the case was released, Emory came up with a bit of a game changer. They were going to release the case three days earlier! With our flights already booked, we found ourselves in the tricky position of being in three different places for the majority of the preparation time! We tried to make up for it by lots of skyping and google hangout time between Copenhagen, Brussels and Atlanta.
The release of the case was a total surprise… our speculations never came anywhere near the actual topic: reduce gun violence in Honduras. Since we had little knowledge of Honduras, or the relations between Central America and the USA, the pressure was on. By the time all the KU team members arrived, little time was left to admire Atlanta’s blossoming trees, sunshine and southern food. Instead we had to dive into pressure cooker modus! But not before attending an inspiring and humoristic speech from William Foege, former chief of CDC amongst many other achievements. (The man comes across like he is in his early 60ies, but will turn 80!) Work on a life philosophy instead of a life plan, stay optimistic and use science rather than worship it, were just a few of his giveaways.
It was time for long days, short nights and don’t even think about your jetlag: focus on Honduras! In two days, we managed to prepare a comprehensive package of strategies. Our plans included city planning, police training and youth employment initiatives, using the designated budget from the Honduran government, US government and European Commission. However different our backgrounds, I don’t think I have ever been part of such an extraordinary team. Critical discussions and intense research sessions were followed up by random goofiness.
During the preparation of the case we were confronted many times with how our different backgrounds and educations have pre-programmed the six of us to think in particular ways. But over the course of the week we managed to think outside our different boxes and stand firmly behind our final result. We presented on Saturday morning to the jury, the consul-general of Honduras to Atlanta and a public health professor, and I can tell you that it was a nerve-wracking experience to present our strategies to a Honduran national; however, we managed to pull off a great presentation and come up with answers to all of the jury’s questions. The University of California at Berkeley won this year’s competition and went home with the 6000USD (congratulations!!).
After the reception and formalities we crawled back to our hotel for a much needed power nap, to get back up soon after: cause these folks wanted to go enjoy Atlanta’s nightlife a little!