Global health problems transcend national and cultural boundaries, and require diverse perspectives and multidisciplinary discussions to address. One of the goals of the interdisciplinary global health scholars certificate program at UIUC is to inspire thinking and incite conversations about solutions to these problems. To that end, online classrooms in the program incorporate discussions between students from UIUC and Njala University in Sierra Leone.
Daniel Kaitibi recently completed the interdisciplinary global health scholars certificate program. As a university lecturer in Computer Science at Njala University in Sierra Leone, Daniel began a PhD in Health Information Systems just over a year ago with Dr. Jenny Amos at UIUC. He was motivated to pursue this field in order to develop hospitals and improve access to healthcare in Sierra Leone. Through his participation in the certificate program, Daniel gained exposure to new topics and perspectives and shared meaningful dialogue with his classmates.
“You learn from me, I learn from you”
When asked about his experience with the online courses, Daniel expressed having learned a lot more than he had originally anticipated. In addition to gaining a deeper understanding of global health topics, Daniel described meaningful interactions with his online classmates. He described the structure of the discussion posts shared by his American classmates as very “fact-based” and containing very directly described, current information. Due in part to the infrastructure at UIUC, where access to wifi and current research articles are readily available to students, and the diverse backgrounds of each of the course participants, Daniel found that the exchange of ideas and experiences in the online classroom was extremely valuable to the growth of each student in the classes. “You learn from me, I learn from you,” he said.
After graduation, Daniel is looking forward to applying what he has learned to improving health systems in Sierra Leone. The hospital in Njala “is just a building,” he said, “there are no drugs, no equipment…it is basically just an empty room.” Daniel is planning to apply his background in computer science and information systems, in addition to the concepts he is learning from his coursework and research to develop technology to improve efficiency, organization, and structure at the hospitals in Sierra Leone. His work is motivated in part by the events he witnessed during the Ebola outbreak, and how frequently data was being collected and analyzed by the CDC to understand and bring an end to the outbreak. He plans to work closely with his colleagues to develop systems that effectively collect and analyze important data to improve the ability of hospitals in Sierra Leone to prevent and stop disease outbreaks in the future.
Collaborations that transcend national borders are necessary to broaden our understanding of health problems that exist on a global scale. The global health scholars certificate program is designed to facilitate interactive learning between students with diverse experiences and backgrounds. Students are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to act as leaders, as Daniel has, in addressing global health problems.