On August 5-9, 2019, the African Forum For Research and Education in Health, or AFREhealth, held their third annual AFREhealth Symposium in Lagos, Nigeria. This year’s theme was “Strengthening Health Research, Education and Service Delivery for Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa.”
STAR’s Project Director, Dr. David Hausner, attended the symposium and, together with Dr. Michael Reid and Ms. Shayanne Martin from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), presented on the STAR Project during a Town Hall on the first day of the symposium. STAR’s Communications team recently sat down with Dr. Hausner to hear about his experience attending the symposium, delivering the Town Hall, and being in Lagos for the first time. Note: The following conversation has been condensed for brevity and clarity.
STAR Communications: What were your key takeaways from the symposium?
Dr. Hausner: What I took away from the symposium were the connections with different people through the discussions I had about STAR, and how others might be able to use STAR. The Town Hall was successful – it was held in a huge ballroom with about 40 people. Most of the people who attended were interested in being Fellows. From their questions – though many of them had more clinical training – they were looking for an entrée into more public health work.
STAR Communications: Which elements of the symposium did you enjoy the most?
Dr. Hausner: What I really liked about this symposium was the smaller size, which is different than going to huge symposiums, like the international AIDS symposium with 15,000 or more people. You can actually meet people and get a sense of the whole group, and they’re just very impressive people – people who are dedicated, intelligent, and capable. People who come to this symposium aspire to great things and want to be helpful for the communities they serve, and it’s just a pleasure to be around so many people like that.
STAR Communications: What impact do you see this symposium having on the STAR project?
Dr. Hausner: Lots of people expressed interest, both in Fellowships and in academic partnerships. There were participants working on their proposals [for STAR’s Collaboration Laboratory] during the week, or they had colleagues working on proposals. There were also many participants interested in either being a Fellow or hosting a Fellow.
STAR Communications: The Symposium hosted many excellent, relevant workshops and sessions. Are there any specific takeaways or insights that stood out for you? Are there any that you would recommend implementing in the STAR project or specifically with our participants?
Dr. Hausner: I attended the Global Health Diplomacy course, which was hosted by UCSF. It was very interesting, and this was the first time they gave the course. The response was exceptional, and people stayed right until the end. Global health diplomacy is a pretty broad topic, and I learned a great deal from this course. Global Health Diplomacy is a collection of a lot of things that good public health workers already do, but this packages it nicely and gives it a purpose. The purpose is to engage the higher-level officials and policymakers and implement public health in a way that is very relevant and makes sense for local communities and the needs of the country. In the future when this course is offered, if convenient, perhaps STAR participants can take advantage of that.
STAR Communications: What was your experience being in Lagos? Do you think Lagos was a good venue, or would another city be a better fit for this type of symposium?
Dr. Hausner: I didn’t get a chance to see much of Lagos, but I saw a great view from my room. In any case, I was only free after dark because of when the symposium ended. It was my first time in Lagos, in Nigeria, and in West Africa.
I think each city will bring its own flavor, along with the institutions that are in those countries. Next year, I think it’s in Addis [Ababa], where there’s a lot of good and interesting public health work being done in Ethiopia.
STAR Communications: Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experience in Lagos?
Dr. Hausner: Being in the midst of so many inspiring and motivating people helps to energize me, and helps remind me why we’re doing this – sometimes we’re so focused on the details that we forget the big picture. There were a couple of things that were mentioned in the symposium that supported our current thinking, like specialized fellowships within ministries of health or local NGOs to help build capacity in those institutions.
The STAR Communications team would like to thank Dr. Hausner for sharing his experiences and insights from the AFREhealth Symposium!
STAR Project Director