Adjunct Faculty, Senior Practicum Proctor for ASD program and International Health Policy Course Faculty Lisa Darsch, MSN, and Assistant Director of Northern Virginia Campus at Scholar Plaza and Assistant Professor of Physician Assistant Studies Leocadia Conlon, M.P.H. led nursing, physician assistant and pharmacy students on a May Global Experiential Learning (GEL) trip to Geneva, Switzerland to attend the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 69th World Health Assembly (WHA) to learn more about global health policy.
Prior to traveling, Shenandoah University partnered with the International Council of Nurses (ICN) and students wrote issues briefs for ICN international delegates on major topics discussed at WHA. While in Geneva, students attended WHA and ICN events as delegates and saw, first-hand, how policy is discussed and developed in the global landscape. “GEL Switzerland represented a course change for me in my life and career, and I found attending the World Health Assembly (WHA) 69 particularly humbling,” said physician assistant studies student Judith Pascarella ’17. “I learned a great deal about how global health leaders interact and the processes that govern change. I had so many meaningful experiences in this trip that allowed me to not only network with global health leaders, but also those individuals on the forefront who are making the changes discussed at the highest levels on the international stage.”
Students and faculty also attended a special roundtable session on cervical cancer screening and prevention, conducted by the health ministers from the Commonwealth countries of WHO. “The most meaningful experiences for me were in the small-group setting. It was encouraging to see progress made and relationships forged,” Pascarella said. “For example, in the HPV and Cervical Cancer panel discussion, a small group of experts were able to allay concerns about cost-effective interventions in developing countries, benefits of using existing networks, and current research into new lab procedures that tied into the plan. These speakers did not hide the fact that challenges remained, and the group was able to have candid conversations about the way forward.”
In addition, the group visited the headquarters of WHO, Doctors Without Borders, and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent. Students took the opportunity to share American culture and cooked American-style barbeque at an evening event with leaders in global health, hosted by the executive director of the International Society for Telemedicine and eHealth.
“At the conclusion of the trip, the strongest take-away for me was that education, preventative health, secure systems, government support, and funding are the keys to success in global health initiatives,” Pascarella added. “It is essential to be proactive rather than reactive. As the message spreads, the hope is that public health will become a natural part of daily governance rather than an afterthought. It felt like a lot of progress was made this year, and it was an unforgettable honor to be invited to attend history in the making.”