Hi everyone. I’m Alexis Goncalves and I’m here at Ryerson’s Student Campus Center bringing you all the latest details about Ryerson’s very first global health conference organized by Ryerson’s Nursing Course Union.
Follow the #RyeGHC14 live blog and feel free to tweet me @AlexisNews4U to join in on the discussion online.
The conference is set to begin at 7 pm and tickets have been sold out since yesterday. Everyone is just making their way in from registration.
In the meantime, here’s a full schedule of how today is supposed to unfold:
Today we will be hearing from two guest speakers, who are world leaders in the health field. Here’s a little bit about each of them and what they will be talking about.
The first speaker is Johana Amar, a registered nurse and a front line clinician.
A significant portion of her career has been dedicated to medical-humanitarian management causes, working with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders in a number of countries throughout Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. Today, she will be speaking about her experiences with MSF and how students can get involved.
Shafi Bhuiyan is the second and final guest speaker today. He is one of Ryerson’s distinguished visiting professors and an adjunct faculty member at the University of Toronto.
Most notably, Bhuiyan has worked for nearly 20 years with universities, governments, non-profit organizations and development partners in Japan, Thailand and Bangladesh to improve maternal and child health, and house and food security. This will be the subject of his speech today.
It's already 7:00, but it looks like we're running a bit behind. Stay tuned for the opening announcements!
Attendees don't seem to be too upset about the delay. Everyone in the room is happily chatting away.
Organizer Angel Wang takes the stand. She thanks everyone for coming and tells us that about half of the attendees today are from outside of Ryerson.
Wang tells us that she hopes that the Ryerson community can use this conference to learn a bit more about global health issues, and that we can hopefully start a "domino effect."
Wang introduces Johana Amar. Amar takes the stand.
Amar tells us that she has no conflict of interest being with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders, which gives her the liberty to speak freely about the issues today.
There seems to be a technical problem with Amar's slideshow presentation. An organizer helps her fix the problem.
Amar tells us that the charter of the MSF allows "full and unhindered freedom in its functions."
Why does MSF work where it does? Amar says the organization provides relief where other organizations and governments do not respond.
MSF has medical programs in more than 71 counties in the world and had more than 500,000 patients in 2014, and more than 77,000 surgical interventions in 2014.
Epidemic response is another part of MSF. Amar talks about its role in handling Ebola.
"Basic does not mean compromising" says Amar, referencing that basic resources are needed to help combat malnutrition.
All of MSF's programs have a vaccination component, Amar tells us. But they are very complex and need very much logistical planning. Normally vaccines are transported from a big facility in Brussels and get transported to where MSF needs them.
It's very hard to change a culture and to change a people, so the MSF uses local ambassadors to help and teach their communities about health.
MSF uses locally hired staff so that patients don't feel victimized, something that Amar says can be made more prevalent with outside workers from the MSF.
Something for discussion: medical and humanitarian ethics. Amar discusses the challenge that the MSF field staff faces with female genital mutilation. "Over 150 million girls have been cut, and over 200 million girls are mutilated."
Amar's question: Suppose you know this is happening, but the culture is important to the girls, but at the same time as a healthcare worker, you can provide clean instruments for this to happen to prevent further infection. What would you do? Amar lets us discuss this with the people sitting at our tables.
Someone from the back says that "the wrong thing to do would be to ignore that this is happening." Talks about utilitarianism, the best thing for the most amount of people, so the best thing you can do is to provide them with sterile equipment.
Amar asks if you would think you are supporting the practise by doing this?
Responder says that you cannot impose your personal beliefs into the society.
But Amar says this is considered a human rights violation. "You never have a black or white answer, there's just so much grey." In practise with MSF, they refuse to provide sterile instruments. "It's difficult not to do so."
In 2005 in Niger, there was a famine. 195 million children younger than five, were effected by malnutrition. Amar says with diseases like Malaria, there is a higher survival rate. Children that are not well nourished don't have the ability to fight off diseases.
What would you do: Would you help to feed the people that are starving, even though this could hurt the farmer's market and the country's economy? Amar lets us discuss again.
One woman from the middle of the room comments that it doesn't necessarily have to be one or the other.
"You can't fix an economy that doesn't have any people in it, because of malnutrition. Not choosing to feed would lead to more harm," another woman comments.
Amar says that you can choose how to feed others. It comes down to targeting certain groups, without putting a strain on general food distribution.
In 1999, MSF won the Nobel Prize for their Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines. The campaign pushes for lower prices of medications to stimulate research and development and to overcome other barriers. This creates a big problem with pharmaceutical companies, because it requires removing patents.
"Ebola is coming into the public's eye now, because it crossed borders," Amar says. "They should have paid attention in the 1960s when it appeared in Africa." There's a crisis every day that needs to be helped. These are referred to as neglected diseases, she says.