SLS Student Organization Partnership Impacts Public Health Initiatives

April 17, 2017

‚ÄčDuring the Zika Outbreak, lessons our nation’s leaders learned about proactive response and preventive public health measures after Ebola made little difference in countering the disease, as Congress delayed funding for its efficient control. Experience from carrying out HIV screenings in Haiti to training health workers through mobile apps has taught me the importance of multisectoral cooperation and active innovation in healthcare. A noninterventionist attitude and reluctance to embrace change is unsustainable to meet the global disease threats of today. Furthermore, without the next generation having a holistic understanding of the challenges that plague public health, we will continue losing precious lives that fall through cracks due to ineffective policies and programs. 

Because Georgia Tech is an engineering school with limited engagement in global health, I noticed the robust need to provide opportunities for my peers to adequately prepare for and become involved in this crucial sector. The Serve-Learn-Sustain program has been a crucial partner in helping me provide this platform for students to finally get plugged into the world of public health.

As founder and president of VAW - GT, I committed to a modern approach to global health, focusing on sustainability and technology during our medical service trips allowing us to treat over 1,200 patients in four countries. Additionally, I’ve worked to establish an electronic health records system for future clinics, create health lesson plans for local teachers, and secure valuable partnerships with MedShare and CVS. SLS has recently provided us with a grant that will help us carry out these innovative projects during our upcoming trip to Albania this May 2017, and their support is vital to our success.

During my time at Tech, I noticed several student organizations with similar missions in healthcare facing nearly identical issues. I envisioned a platform on campus that would unite these related projects to foster collaboration. SLS connected me with the President of GT’s FIMRC chapter, and together we are establishing the Health Service Initiative. With a goal to promote campus and external partnerships, advocate for health projects, and generate sustainable sources of funding for student-led initiatives, this program will finally provide a solid platform for students seeking to gain experience in public health. SLS has been remarkably helpful, connecting us with student organizations like Buzz Mobile Health, which provides healthcare to Atlanta’s homeless population, so we can better focus this platform for long-term impact.

Finally, I developed a proposal for a B.S. in Global Health Systems and Technology at Tech. Capitalizing on the institute’s expertise in applying technological solutions to society’s challenges, this degree would fill critical gaps in health education by focusing on health system innovation, featuring a variety of disciplines in healthcare at the undergraduate level. Utilizing current course offerings spanning almost every department, its interdisciplinary education and collaboration with SLS and C2D2 will best prepare students for the complex nature of public health. Furthermore, it will generate invaluable internal and external partnerships, attracting strong investments from organizations that have long-sought a research university committed to health system improvement and placing our school on the forefront of health innovation.

Novel programs like Serve-Learn-Sustain are essential for equipping our generation with the skillset and innovative mindset to think critically about solutions to meet the grand challenges of the 21st century. Through their support, I am hopeful that Georgia Tech will finally become a much-needed leader in global health innovation, as well as other related fields that require sustainability thinking.

Arush Lal is a fourth year student studying Business Administration. As a global health advocate, Arush has worked to lead several on-campus public health initiatives. These include founding Volunteers Around the World - Georgia Tech, where he led 70 students to four developing countries, providing over 1,200 patients with medications and health education. He is also involved with Buzz Mobile Health, providing healthcare to Atlanta’s homeless populations, and has developed and proposed a new undergraduate degree at Georgia Tech in Global Health Systems and Technology. Arush is passionate about SLS and serves on its Student Advisory Board, providing input on initiatives like the upcoming application for an Atlanta UN-RCE. Arush interned in the Office of Pandemics and Emerging Threats (OGA/HHS) during the Zika Outbreak and worked in the largest trauma hospital in the Dominican Republic. After graduation, Arush will be pursuing his MSc in Health Policy, Planning, and Financing at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and London School of Economics.