Course: GHP400
Instructor: Shenk
S 2015

Description of Course Goals and Curriculum

This course aims to examine major global health topics, which currently pose problems, potential threats, and policy challenges around the world. Due to the three-hour duration of each class session, each topic is explored thoroughly in an in­ depth manner. The topics of the class vary by year and are chosen based on their current relevance to global health and health policy. That being said, topics may include AIDS in America, synthetic biology, infectious etiology of cancer, and the Cost of Cancer, to name a few.

Learning From Classroom Instruction

Each week there is one three-hour class session, which covers four aspects of one topic, as presented by four students. Each student presents for about twenty minutes, with another twenty to twenty-five minutes for questions from the class. Each group of four students works closely with one of the professors to decide on unique and interesting aspects of their topic to present. This allows for individual time with the professors in which students and professors might be able to get to know each other. Throughout the semester, three guest speakers present on their areas of expertise. All are very engaging and informative. Participation is a key part of this course, and students are expected to draw from the reading so that they can contribute questions and comments during the presentations. It is easy to listen to student presentations, but it is more difficult to question the things that your classmates are saying and to point out things that they may have forgotten. While these things may seem difficult or unpleasant, they are critical to the participation portion of this course. Once the student gets into this mindset and is able to practice the techniques, it becomes easier to question both articles and presenters. Practice makes perfect. A third challenge of this course is determining the level to which taking notes and paying attention to detail is important. Since there are no exams, taking meticulous notes about every biological mechanism that is discussed is probably not the best idea. Instead, trying to really listen and engage in the class in order to grasp the big picture and the message of the presentation is more important. While specific details are not necessarily important, understanding is and being engaged in class will hopefully provide this.

Learning For and From Assignments

The bulk of the reading material for each class consists of scientific articles and epidemiological studies. The most challenging part of this course is learning to question both the readings and your classmates. It is easy to passively read scientific articles and accept everything that they say as true. To be successful in this course, however, students must be willing to think critically about potential flaws the studies may have and what implications these have for the interpretation of results. A second learning challenge for this course is the choice of which topic to present. While preferences are considered, the overarching topic for the session is assigned to students and then they are able to choose within that topic what they will present on. It can be difficult to narrow down the topic to something that is manageable to present in twenty minutes as well as interesting and unique. By starting as early as possible after the theme assignment and doing a good deal of background reading, it should become easier for the student to find an interesting and unique aspect to present on. Choosing a topic that you are passionate about, if possible is often the best route to take since this will allow you to engage students more and allow for a better presentation overall. Engaged students will find it easier to do the necessary research for the presentation so that they are never caught unaware for a question. Finally, speaking with the professor mentor early and often is another key to success. They can often help direct you on which topics will be interesting and engaging for the class. The first suggestion I have for this course is to do the reading prior to seminar. This course is always taught on Thursday nights, so students have all week to do the reading, and it is not an overwhelming amount, so it is definitely doable. This will allow the student to start thinking about the topic and developing questions about the papers. The second major component of the grade is the presentation, which makes some students more anxious than others. I would recommend starting the presentation as early as possible so that going over it with the professor is an option. Incorporating any feedback is a good idea since the professor is the ultimate judge of the presentation. Also, I would recommend rehearsing it many times, including in front of friends who are not in the class and know little about the topic. Tell them to ask questions if things are unclear, this way you can anticipate questions and even answer them before they are asked.

External Resources

If students are confused about the topic in general, there will be time to do a little bit of basic research (Wikipedia etc.) to understand better or to realize that they need further clarification during the presentation. Students should also look at the slide deck, which is posted the night before on blackboard. This will help them to get their wheels turning and get them in the mindset of the presentation. This should allow them to be ready more quickly when the actual presentation starts so that they might be able to contribute to the discussion and earn those precious participation points.

What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection

This is the type of course that is made up of mostly junior and senior pre­med students who are looking to take upper level courses that they find interesting. For the most part, these students have mastered the basic concepts of biology, and are looking for a more comprehensive look at global health and health policy through a variety of lenses: highly mechanistic, policy related, and as a whole. As such, this course is great for students who are interested in global health and want in depth exposure to currently relevant topics. This is also a great course for any pre-med students who might not have any background in policy but are interested in its relation to medicine. A good compliment to this course is MOL425: Infection: Biology, Burden, and Policy. This course is taught by the same professors, but is twice a week for eighty minutes instead of once a week for three hours. This class involves a somewhat shorter presentation and more instruction by the professors. Although all topics relate to infection, it has the same in-depth and currently relevant quality.
Seminar in Global Health and Health Policy

Add a Strategy or Tip