Part I: Diving into Dhaka
An interdisciplinary team uses their on-the-ground experience to inform innovative solutions in global health
The Center for Global Health GEMS team in Bangladesh has been in-country this summer tackling a very important global health problem: neonatal mortality. Neonatal mortality is a problem world-wide, roughly 15 million babies are born too early each year but 75% of them can be saved with current, cost-effective interventions (WHO, 2014). The goal of the team's activities is to better understand neonatal healthcare needs and develop innovative low-cost solutions for health care workers in rural and urban Bangladesh.
The team on the ground is currently comprised of 4 engineering students, 1 informatics student, and 1 data analyst who have all spent significant time in-country interviewing rural and urban healthcare workers and collecting data.
Students did their homework prior to arriving in Bangladesh but according to the team, that pre-departure research was never going to give them the whole picture. The opportunity to see the workflow of healthcare and how patients are taken care of has been of paramount importance to the team; "It's just been helpful seeing that first hand because you cant really see that level of detail from just doing research," says Sam Zschack, a GEMS team member and engineering student in the CBID program. Neha Goel, one of the student leaders of the GEM team went on to say that she believes that time in the field is of the utmost importance, "I think that with each field visit our solution has iterated and significantly shifted each time we have come to Bangladesh".
Two core components of the GEMS program are in-country experience and interdisciplinarity. Teams have been funded by the CGH to send students overseas to develop innovative solutions to complex global health problems. During a site visit to Dhaka, CGH staff asked students to think about the role that interdisciplinarity has played in their project so far.
Ms. Goel explained to us that,
across the board we’ve been able to learn from each other and grow because of this experiences and that’s not something you can do by taking classes. I think in the truest sense we have all had some kind of interdisciplinary learning, but interdisciplinary innovation has only happened because of a team setting.
It seems that the innovations are not the only things to benefit from the interdisciplinarity of the project. Students on the team believe that this experience has already played a significant role in their academics and future careers. Mr. Zschack said, "You know this trip is going to help me get a lot of soft skills that are going to translate to help me doing my job better that are going to help me understand things that aren’t maybe my job..but will definitely help me do my job better and work with other people who aren’t engineers better."
Five members of the GEMS Team are pictured outside of BRAC Centre, longstanding collaborators in Bangladesh.
It is rewarding for the CGH to see students thriving in a team-setting overseas, working together and learning from one another. In a follow-up article we will take a look at the work the team has been doing and report on their progress so far.
Learn more about the GEMS Program
Read more about the experiences of the team
Learn more about the Center for Global Health and Donate
Missed our other news pieces about this group and their program? You can catch up:
March 19, 2015 - GEMS-Bangladesh completes first field visit
January 06, 2015 - Center launches GEMS program