This year’s Global Health Conference was hosted by UBC’s School of Population and Public Health and The Center of International Child Health. It took place on January 22nd 2020 at the Chan Auditorium at BC Children’s Hospital and brought together global health researchers, students and organizations to discuss the steps needed to achieve a robust health workforce.

The conference kicked off with a lunch session where delegates had the chance to interact with a number of local organizations that were highlighting their global health research and initiatives. After lunch, delegates gathered at the Chan Auditorium for the remainder of the day. There was an opening note by Deborah Money who shared some wise words on the current human resources crisis within the field of global health.

This was followed by the first keynote speaker, Tim Evans (Director and Associate Dean of McGill’s School of Population and Global Health) who presented on the role of health workers in creating resilient and responsive health systems. He very eloquently pointed out that people in poor countries are sick as a result of ‘social organizational failures’ that hinder access to health care. He ended his talk by alluding to the current health education system insisting that learning should be transformative, not just informative, and be a life-long process.  The keynote presentation was followed by a panel discussion on equity in the global health workforce along the continuum of care. The panelists were Angeli Rawat, Elizabeth Saewyc, Dorothy Shaw and Padma Venkatasubbu moderated by Tim Evans. They each shared their personal take on the topic and their own experiences within their respective careers and then opened it to the audience for questions. The key takeaway was to improve equity for healthcare workers, both in the training that they receive and in the care they give.

The second keynote speaker was Stephen Rulisa (Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology and former Dean of the School of Medicine and Pharmacy at the University of Rwanda) who shared how the Human Resources for Health (HRH) program in Rwanda helped build a sustainable healthcare system. In 2011, Rwanda only had 625 physicians and 8,200 nurses serving a population of 10 million. In just 7 years, Rwanda doubled the number of physicians, substantially improved the quality of training and competency of their residents, strengthened patient care, and improved national and global collaborations. During the Q&A, Stephen shared a very impressive fact with the audience – Rwanda uses drones to bring blood to any health center within 20 minutes! This was followed by a second panel on Human Resources in the context of conflict and recovery. The panelists were Lynda Redwood-Campbell, Mohamed Ibrahim, Stephen Rulisa, Patricia Spittal and Meaghan Thumath; moderated by Simona Powell. Panelists agreed that peace is a primary determinant of health in conflict, post-conflict and fragile states. Healthcare workers in fragile settings have to learn how to be peacemakers, not just caregivers. Peace is a primary determinant of health which will require learning new skills like negotiation and building trust with the community.

The evening ended with closing remarks from Gina Olgive and Mark Ansermino followed by a reception where delegates could network and further discuss their interests in global health. Overall, the conference provided an excellent platform for passionate global health researchers, trainees, and practitioners to be exposed to multifaceted discussions on strengthening the global health workforce.

Video recordings of the conference will be available to watch on https://www.bcchr.ca/global-health-conference.

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