Students present case on global health in D.C.

Three Trinity students participated in the Clinton Global Initiative University conference held March 30- April 1 at George Washington University in Washington, D. C. The three students, Morgan Fisler, Katie Garrett and Ali Kimura, were one group out of the 120 exhibitors chosen to show their projects during the conference.

The opportunity arose as a result of the group’s case study for biology professor Robert Blystone’s Global Health class.

The group chose to focus on Rio de Janeiro’s problem with Dengue Fever.

Dengue fever is a potentially life-threatening infectious disease that first manifests as a very high fever and is transmitted by mosquitoes.

“Dengue fever is a tropical disease caused by a virus that is carried by mosquitoes. These mosquitoes commonly breed in shallow, stagnant water, and tires are perfect environments for them to breed in,” said Garrett, a junior with a double major in biology and studio art.

“In Rio de Janeiro, there are favelas, which are basically shanty towns on the outskirts of the city. The people who live there are essentially forgotten, and there is a high percentage of poverty there with limited health care, lower quality waste management, and drug problems,” said Fisler, a junior biology major with a minor in Spanish. “In these favelas, there is lots of trash and about three million abandoned tires. Tires are one of the main places that mosquitoes breed, so we thought that we could aim to decrease the vector””which is the number of breeding mosquitoes””by collecting tires and recycling them,” Fisler said.

By recycling the tires, the group hoped to improve the quality of life of people living in the favelas as well.

“Recycled tires can be used to make soccer fields and other public locations. Also, the rubber from the tires can be used to improve roofs. Basically, we want to clean up the city while also decreasing the incidence of Dengue fever,” Fisler said.

The case study focused on finding a global health-related problem and then coming up with methods for improving the situation.

For the class’s final project, the group had the option of either continuing with their Dengue Fever case study, called Dominating Dengue, or starting on something completely new.

“We continued with our case study because we had almost a semester’s worth of research. Dr. Blystone encouraged us to look into applying to be part of the Clinton Global Initiative University conference after we heard about it through an email sent out by Dr. Sheryl Tynes at the end of last semester,” Fisler said.

The group became three of the 1000 participants in the conference at GWU once they were accepted and Trinity University found that it was able to fund the trip.

The event brought together many different influential people, including Usher, creator of Craigslist Craig Newmark, and, of course, Bill Clinton.

“There were so many different events during the conference. Friday night, there was a networking dinner where Craig from Craigslist spoke to us, and then there was a panel discussion moderated by the president of GWU, then Clinton himself talked to us,” Garrett said. “Looking back, the availability of contacts and networking opportunities, between the people from other universities and representatives from major NGOs was invaluable.”

Throughout the conference, there were several opportunities to go to different panels with leaders in each field of discussion on topics as varied as global health, poverty and entrepreneurship. The last day of the conference, there was also an optional service project put on by the non-profit organization Rebuilding Together, in which students made repairs in homes for the less fortunate.

The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart and Clinton made the final address of the conference, and it included a question-and-answer portion with Clinton.

Fisler, Garrett and Kimura participated in and enjoyed these events, but a good part of their Saturday was taken up by their participation in the exhibition of the 120 selected student projects and initiatives.

“My favorite part of this conference was the opportunity to share our novel idea and to be inspired by other students. Some were at the same stage as us, which is the initial push toward implementation, but many had been working on their commitments for years and had already been able to see the fruits of their work,” said Kimura, a pre-med senior with a double major in Spanish and international studies.

Each of the students sincerely appreciated the opportunity to take part in the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative University conference.

“I think it gave us hope that we can truly make our solution a reality if we stay devoted to its success. Of course, seeing Bill Clinton every day was a plus, too,” Kimura said.