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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ODU Center for Global Health Hosts Two Events during International Education Week

The Old Dominion University Center for Global Health celebrated International Education Week, Nov. 11-19, with programs focusing on the need to address public health issues at home and abroad.

International Education Week is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education. The purpose of International Education Week is to celebrate the benefits of international education, student exchange and global relations.

Included in a week of events, sponsored by Student Engagement and Enrollment Services' Office of Intercultural Relations, the Center for Global Health held two events. As an introduction to both programs, Rachawan Wongtrirat, assistant director of international initiatives for the Office of Intercultural Relations, gave welcoming remarks highlighting the importance of International Education Week, global learning and collaboration.

On Wednesday, Nov. 13, an expert panel examined "Global Health Education at Old Dominion University" and existing opportunities for students to become involved in civic learning experiences. Muge Akpinar-Elci, director of the Center for Global Health, provided remarks that introduced the ODU center's mission and vision.

"Global Health shows us the big picture," she said. "Mistakenly, people assume that the target of 'global health' mainly involves problems in the developing world. However, diseases and health problems do not recognize borders. All countries need to learn from the experiences of other countries."

Akpinar-Elci also noted that raising awareness and education are essential to addressing global health problems. After her talk, Kimberly Adams-Tufts, from the ODU School of Nursing, presented "Nursing Students' Involvement in Global Health" and Gail Grisetti, from the ODU School of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training, presented "Physical Therapy Students' Involvement in Global Health."

Following the presentations, a discussion panel featured ODU faculty members, including Akpinar-Elci, Adams-Tufts and Grisetti, along with Mary Kwasniewski, senior program director for the local nonprofit organization Physicians of Peace, who discussed global health and global health education's importance. Current student and faculty involvement opportunities on global health were examined on campus, regional and global levels. Students from the School of Nursing also intensively participated in the discussion.

On Thursday, Nov. 14, the Center for Global Health presented a second event, titled "South Sudan," which focused on current initiatives in South Sudan to support and offer solutions to the existing infrastructure problems in the newly formed nation. This event was the result of collaboration between the Center for Global Health and local nonprofit organization, Abukloi.

Angelo Maker, an ODU graduate and founder of Abukloi, is one of 3,000 orphans called the Lost Boys of Sudan, who were brought to this country by the U.S. government in 2001. Maker's village was attacked during a 1983 civil war in Southern Sudan - a war that claimed more than 2 million lives. When he was 7 years old, Maker watched as his mother and two brothers were brutally murdered.

During the ODU program, Akpinar-Elci introduced the global health center's mission and stressed that she was happy to collaborate with an ODU alumni-led organization. She also briefly talked about current public health issues affecting South Sudan. Program highlights included the presentation of a movie, produced by Gary E. Gillam, that featured Abukloi's ongoing efforts to support the growth of South Sudan. Following the film, a panel discussion included Benjamin Keyes, of Regent University; Maker and Robert L. Parsons, of Abukloi; and Grisetti. The panel discussed the needs of South Sudan and future plans for collaboration.

"On behalf of the Abukloi board of directors and the people of South Sudan, I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the Center for Global Health at Old Dominion University," Maker said. "Special appreciation goes to (College of Health Sciences) Dean Shelley Mishoe and director of the Center for Global Health Muge Akpinar-Elci for their interest. This collaboration between the Center for Global Heath at Old Dominion University and Abukloi is a special milestone to bring change to the newest nation on earth."

Maker encouraged ODU students, alumni, faculty, staff and others in the broader community to join the Center for Global Heath and Abukloi to help make a difference in South Sudan. Akpinar-Elci is working diligently to establish connections that will support the goals that Maker has identified for the continued growth of South Sudan.

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