By Nora Piay-Fernández and Solomiya Kasyanchuk, SIGHT Student Coordinators 2020/2021
Starting our year as SIGHT student coordinators in the middle of a global pandemic was a challenge. We had barely got used to using online platforms and suddenly all our work was meant to happen in the digital space. However, this situation opened interesting opportunities for our work and the network’s activities: we were able to include more students in locations other than Stockholm, we could speak to global health professionals in all corners of the planet, we could reach further and engage better. Despite not being able to share our ideas over fika, we managed to build strong connections with fellow students and have deep and fruitful conversations with each one of them. We learnt from senior professionals in a variety of disciplines, we enriched our perspectives and we learned lessons that we will forever take with us.
A Global Health network for life
We joined SIGHT in June 2020 and one of our first tasks was to get to know the group of motivated students in the SIGHT Student Organizations Network (SIGHT-SON). At the time, SIGHT-SON was integrated by six student organizations very active in the global health field. However, they missed new and fresh perspectives and they wanted to expand the scope and reach of the network by engaging new students from different disciplines. As student coordinators, we took their feedback very seriously and we managed to expand the network to include thirteen organizations based in universities across Sweden (and even Denmark!). We also started collaborations with other student organizations and student bodies which, although they didn’t have the capacity to join the network as full members, they were interested in knowing about our activities and get engaged.
To kick off the school year in September 2020, we organized a kick-off meeting with new and old members in order to get to know each other and set the agenda for the year. The Director of SIGHT, Peter Friberg, joined us in welcoming students and gave us courage and motivation to keep up the good work the SIGHT-SON students had been doing since 2017.
We wanted to capitalize on the diverse perspectives and amazing work students were driving forward with their organizations. Therefore, we decided to make students the protagonists of the seminars that preceded our monthly meetings by starting a series of peer-seminars. We took the opportunity to learn from each other, to challenge each other and to have open conversations about Global Health topics that were of interest to us. We learned about patents and pricing of medicines, about the Sustainable Development Goals, and about what it means to decolonize global health, among others.
During this year, we tried to put students at their organizations at the very centre of the network and to improve communications and engagement. We initiated the SIGHT Student Newsletter to inform all network members about the events, activities and initiatives led by the network or by any of the member organizations, but also to spread the word about interesting external events and opportunities to further engage in global health.
One of these opportunities came through the establishment of the Swedish Networks for Global Health. In close collaboration with our colleague Gabriella Hök, we encouraged students to join these professional networks, to participate in their events and to start interesting collaborations that we hope will be successful.
Sharing our passion for Global Health
Global Health Night and SIGHT Award 2020 – November 25th, 2020
Global Health Night/ SIGHT Award 2020 was organized in collaboration with the Mistra Center for Sustainable Markets at the Stockholm School of Economics (Misum) and Student Association at the Stockholm School of Economics (SASSE) and, for the first time, Global Health Night left Karolinska Institutet and was hosted by another university in Stockholm. The event was attended by over 200 students, from across Sweden and studying different disciplines.
The event aimed to inspire students, not only to see the current situation as a temporary change in our lives, but as an opportunity to make long lasting change in whatever area we are studying. We invited Dr Renzo Guinto and Dr Rachel Glennerster as our keynote speakers, together with a number of great panelists to discuss actions we need to take to go “beyond building back better”. With their experience and insights in creating change and improving the world around us, we inspired students with various backgrounds to create change in their local context, so as to make a global impact.
As every year since 2017, the SIGHT Award 2020 recognized a Global Health changemaker, conducting necessary and important research within global health. This year we honoured Ebba Malmqvist for her work on the health effects of air pollution, which showed the increasing relevance and interest for planetary health.
“We need to flatten the curve of our planetary impact. Unlike the COVID-19 curve, the capacity cannot be expanded by increasing healthcare resources – the planetary boundaries are finite” Renzo Guinto
The Politics of Global Health: A Seminar Series – February to May 2021
The SIGHT Student Organizations Network started the year 2021 with energy and willingness to collaborate in organizing a joint activity on a topic we were all passionate about: the intersections between politics and global health. A team of students, led by the SIGHT Student Coordinators, got together to organize a series of four seminars that revolved around the political and commercial determinants of health, the impact of foreign and trade policies in global health, the current global health governance structures and the issues of global health security. Between 35 and more than 90 participants joined each seminar to learn more about these overlooked topics, which are barely addressed in formal health sciences education. Students had the opportunity to engage with senior global health professionals from a wide range of disciplines in discussing the influences of politics in global health and to imagine future directions and opportunities.
“You can give up or become a realist and navigate the world, to do the best to get to accomplish what you want.” Sahar Nejat
Leadership in Global Health: Impact on Women’s Health – March 8th 2021, Women’s Day
The students at the SIGHT Student Organizations Network hosted an event to celebrate International Women’s Day. The panel discussion, organized with the unvaluable support of Women in Global Health Sweden, revolved around the topic of female leadership in Global Health and its impact on the health and wellbeing of women and people around the world. More than 70 students and young professionals zoomed in and listened to Chadia Wannous, Mariam Claeson, and Flavia Bustreo, in their conversation about the intricacies and challenges of female leadership and how important it is that we keep working together towards a better, more fair and more equitable world for all.
“Women will open more space for women. We need more women in the digital space, more women in global health diplomacy, more women in leadership roles, and more women with actual voice and power at the table where decisions are made.” Flavia Bustreo
The Future of Global Health: A conversation between the leaders of today and the leaders of tomorrow – May 20th 2021
During the GHN we asked students a not-so-simple question: “What is the biggest challenge to global health in the coming decades?”. The replies we received were primarily centered around the climate crisis and rising inequalities. And six months later we decided to go back to these two challenges during a conversation with Mandeep Dhaliwal and Ilona Kickbusch. In a small session with approximately 20 students, we were able to dive deep into these issues and discuss our concerns as students. Mandeep and Ilona shared their experiences, presenting both the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead to make systemic change and create a healthier planet. During the discussion we touched on topics such as, how we should challenge governance structures, reconsider the financing of global health and increase intersectoral collaboration, provided us, students, with much to consider as we head off after our studies and join you in improving global health.
A few lessons we take with us…
As students we often want to contribute to Global Health and make a difference with our actions, but it is difficult to understand how to achieve this, and we often assume that having a good job or a big network is what we need to succeed. But what we and many other students learned this year is that critical thinking, holding tough discussions and asking many questions is our responsibility as students. To better prepare ourselves for our future in Global Health, we opted to hold events this year that allowed students to reconsider how we approach Global Health and how we should tackle today’s challenges. During the Global Health Night, we tackled issues of planetary health, specifically looking at the link between economics and health. During our Politics in Global Health series, we examined the varying roles politics plays in making decisions in Global Health, such as considering political and corporate determinants of health, and questioning how decisions are made. During our event for Women’s Day, we chose to take an approach of empowering women to work together for a better future for all, learning about how we can help support each other. And in our event, “the Future of Global Health”, we had an open discussion about how we see the challenges of inequalities and the climate crisis impacting our future and had the opportunity to ask tough questions to our speakers. Throughout all the events, we aimed to show different students that this is one world that we share and that our health and the health of the planet affects us all – making it more critical than ever to work together to make a change.
In addition to learning about concepts surrounding Global Health, we learned many practical lessons about how to organize events, how to work effectively together as a team, both as two coordinators that can rely on each other, but also as a team together with the rest of the Student Organizations Network. Working together as a team of two was valuable for our growth, as we could bounce ideas off each other, support each other in decision making, and build on each other’s strengths and weaknesses. While collaborating with the Network, we learned to be more organized and efficient, learning how to engage more students and ensure that everyone felt part of the process and able to contribute in a meaningful way. Our positions allowed us to both grow as leaders and as team members, working on short deadlines and often with many other projects at the same time.
Finally, we learned that as students we often underestimate ourselves, that we can have a great impact on shaping Global Health and current leaders are more than ready to share with us their experiences.
“We’re a society which doesn’t exclusively deal with global health issues. Working with SIGHT pushed us to focus on where our work overlaps with global health. In doing so, we were able to broaden our own perspective and identify opportunities to collaborate.” Amy, representative of ISPOR-KI Student Chapter to SIGHT-SON
“The SIGHT Student Organizations Network has allowed me to meet with likeminded students. I have had the opportunity to learn about their organizations, while also representing my own. Through the network I have gained valuable insight into global health work, and I will start my career as a young global health professional enriched with new connections and knowledge” Emma, representative of Decolonising Global Health to SIGHT-SON