Featuring: Lifang Hou, MD, PhD
The Robert J. Havey, MD Institute for Global Health hosted the 11th annual Global Health symposium on December 2, celebrating global health research, education and outreach efforts from Northwestern global health investigators, faculty, students and community partners.
This year’s symposium, held in person for the first time in three years, featured keynote speakers, panel discussions and poster presentations, with opening remarks given by Robert Murphy, MD, the John Philip Phair Professor of Infectious Diseases and executive director of the Institute for Global Health.
“The institute works to create knowledge, capacity and equity in global health through transdisciplinary research and education partnerships,” Murphy said. “Global Health Day is an exciting opportunity to draw together global health researchers, educators and students to celebrate and discover more about global health research, education, and outreach efforts.”
The symposium also included a panel featuring faculty members of the institute, who outlined the mission and goals of their respective centers within the institute. The panel included:
During the symposium, attendees learned about global health research findings from Feinberg students, faculty, community partners at a poster session held in the Ryan Family Atrium
Kathryn Jackson-Jones, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Judd Hultquist, PhD, assistant professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases, presented her research exploring how HIV hijacks host DNA and interacts with RNA processing mechanisms to change the host cell’s immune response. Her work found that HIV recruits the protein CPSF6 to stop the host cell from correctly processing RNA, which leads to a reduction in immune response and an increase in HIV infection.
“Understanding how HIV modulates the cell’s immune response to infection could identify potential therapeutic mechanisms to target for the development of HIV therapeutics and novel curative strategies,” Jackson-Jones said.
In response to the ongoing war in Ukraine, Maria Bandriwsky, a student in the Master of Science in Global Health program, evaluated the effectiveness of two mental health interventions for adolescent and adult Ukrainian refugees: Project SHIFA, a mental health program carried out among Somali and Somali Bantu refugee children, and Help & Hope 4 Ukraine which was designed to help Ukrainian adult refugees.
Through comprehensive analysis, Bandriwsky found that Project SHIFA can be adopted in current school settings to address the mental health needs of children Ukrainian refugees while Help & Hope 4 Ukraine can help address barriers to seeking mental health treatment for adult Ukrainian refugees.
“Russia’s war in Ukraine has left millions of Ukrainian women and children displaced and seeking refuge in asylum countries. Despite their resilience, many of these individuals risk developing complex mental health illnesses if not given early and effective intervention methods,” Bandriwsky said.
This year’s Global Health Day keynote speaker was Satish Gopal, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Global Health at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), who spoke about the importance of prioritizing cancer research and ending cancer globally through rigorous research and outreach efforts.
As the rate of cancer-related mortality continues to increase globally, 69 percent of these deaths will occur in low-to-middle income countries by the year 2040, according to the National Cancer Institute. However, in comparison with other public health issues such as COVID-19, the public’s attention has continued to steer away from cancer, according to Gopal.
“I do like to emphasize that global cancer does not tend to attract the sense of urgency, public attention, political panic and anxiety that COVID and other pandemics do, and this is a very large fire that has developed fully over years and really requires us to focus on this with the same level of urgency as did with COVID,” Gopal said.
Gopal outlined efforts currently underway at the NCI’s Center for Global Health to end cancer, which are supported by the Cancer Moonshot Initiative that was reignited by President Biden earlier this year. These efforts include understanding and addressing global health disparities and accelerating technology development for global cancer control.
“It’s only by achieving this together that I believe we can end cancer as we know it everywhere, make cancer treatment a global priority, and allow all people to contribute to and benefit from cancer research,” Gopal said.
This year’s symposium ended with closing remarks given by Murphy, who thanked this year’s attendees and announced poster presentation winners.
Poster Presentation Winners
This article was originally published in the Feinberg School of Medicine News Center on December 7, 2023.
Lifang Hou, MD, PhD, Director, Robert J. Havey, MD Institute for Global Health - Center for Global Oncology, Chief of Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention in the Department of Preventive Medicine, Professor of Preventive Medicine (Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention) and Pediatrics
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