Global Health Night fosters discussions for a better future

The McGill Global Health Program’s (GHP) 12th annual Global Health Night, held on Nov. 2, brought together students and faculty members for an evening celebration, recognizing McGill’s involvement in international health-related fields. The night’s programming highlighted student research and featured keynote speaker professor Senait Fisseha, the Director of Global Programs at the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation as well as the Chief Advisor to the Director-General of the World Health Organization

As with previous years, the night began with a poster fair. Since this year’s event was moved to an online platform, attendees were able to join virtual breakout rooms where McGill students, residents, and postdoctoral fellows presented their research. There were over 50 simultaneous breakout poster sessions that covered a variety of global health topics such as COVID-19, HIV/AIDS, and malnutrition. The poster session illustrated the interdisciplinary nature of the global health field, as presenters tied together a variety of topics, such as medicine, public health, economics, and political science.

After the poster fair, Fisseha gave a relevant and timely lecture addressing the vast asymmetry of power and privilege that permeates every aspect of global health. In her speech, Fisseha emphasized how the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with worldwide racial injustice, has sharpened the focus on the intersectional disparities in global health. Key issues included racial inequalities and exclusion based on citizenship, gender, and other identities. Fisseha addressed McGill students, urging them to find ways to use their positions of power and privilege to change the oppressive structures that currently shape the field.

“We are at a pivotal and urgent moment of uprising and reckoning,” Fisseha said. “How will you use your power to call out single stories, dismantle harmful norms, and reconcile the colonial history in global health? [Right] now, we have a very unique and historic opportunity to accelerate transformation [….] I urge you to seize this moment and to challenge the system in which you live and work.”

In an interview with The McGill Tribune, GHP’s Senior Administrative Coordinator Stéphanie Laroche-Pierre, Interim Director Dr. Charles Larson, and Global Health Program Manager Kevin O’Neill explained how Global Health Night has evolved throughout the years by becoming more inclusive to the entire McGill community.

“[In the beginning], Global Health Night was an opportunity to reach out to students, [and it] was an event focussed on curriculum, development, and educating medical students and health personnel students,” Larson said. “Now, it is much more than that. It’s a campus wide event where we want to reach out and create a sense of community at McGill among those who are interested in global health.”

With the event being held virtually this year, the coordinators had to adapt their strategies to create an engaging online experience, which has informed a new vision for future Global Health Nights.

“The aim [of Global Health Night] is to create awareness of the fantastic work that students are doing […] and display it to the rest of the McGill community,” Larson said. “[In the future], we are planning on a hybrid event, both in-person and virtual.”

With over 450 participants from around the world, Global Health Night successfully highlighted the important work of McGill’s students and staff. Additionally, it allowed for a moment of reckoning, calling on both students and faculty to acknowledge the sensitive issues permeating the field of global health. 

A recording of Global Health Night is now available online here. It will be available up until the end of this week. If you are interested in future Global Health events, you can sign up for their newsletter here.

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