Physician Assistant (PA) Studies faculty and students attended the World Health Organization (WHO) Forum on Human Resources for Health in Dublin, Ireland, in November. This meeting was the largest-ever forum focusing on health workers and global health, with delegates from 70 countries attending. WHO has called for innovation to expand and transform the health workforce, as it estimates a health worker shortfall of 18 million globally by 2030. Addressing the workforce globally is vital to meeting one of the aims of WHO’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): to achieve universal health coverage of all United Nations (U.N.) member states by 2030 (SDG target 3.8).
Shenandoah University Assistant Professor and Associate Director of Physician Assistant Studies Leocadia Pietrowski-Conlon, PA-C, MPH, presented on the implementation of a student-led community health worker (CHW) program and its potential for aligning with goals of social accountability in health professional education. This student-led CHW program is a pilot project that began in June 2017 in partnership with the Lord Fairfax District Health District. The project aims to help build a local CHW program in response to community needs, and to promote social accountability among health professional students. Educational activities that align with social accountability are important to the development of health care professionals who are prepared to address the burden of health inequities. It was an honor and a unique opportunity to have faculty present on an innovative program at Shenandoah University in front of an audience of leaders in the global health community.
Students had the additional honor of attending the first-ever Youth Forum on Human Resources for Health. Audrey Lee ’18 (PA student), Catherine Mahon ’18 (Dual PA/Master of Public Health student), and Christina Wojnarwsky ’18 (Dual PA/Master of Public Health student), were the only PA students accepted, after an application process, to be a part of a delegation of 100 students from across the globe. Some of the countries represented at the Youth Forum included Australia, Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Jordan, England, Ireland, Canada, Greece, Portugal, Singapore and South Africa. Students spent a day engaged in workshops to discuss innovations to build and expand the health care workforce globally.
“It was a unique and empowering opportunity to be surrounded by a diverse, intelligent, motivated and hopeful group of students and young professionals from around the globe, actively working towards a better future with accessible quality care and prevention for everyone,” Mahon said. “It really showed me what resources we have available to us, and that we do have the skills and knowledge to make a difference, and we just have to be bold enough to stand up and do something with it,” Wojnarwski added. During the forum, Lee delivered a report from the work achieved during the student forum that contributed to the development of an official call to action, “Youth Call for Action on Human Resources for Health,” which is available on the WHO website.
Featured photo above/From left to right: Christina Wojnarwsky, Leocadia Pietrowski-Conlon, MPH, PA-C (PA faculty), Audrey Lee and Catherine Mahon.