Through Our Lens | Columbia Hilltop 2018-19


Written by Janani Krishnan & Niyati Shah

From November 9-11, we had the amazing opportunity to attend GlobeMed at Columbia University’s HillTop Conference. Called “Political Perspectives,” the Conference hosted a panel of scholars, activists, and professionals who are spearheading change within various facets of local and global public health. Read on to learn about some of our favorite speakers from the Conference!

Richard Plunz: Where Architecture Meets Health Services Delivery

Richard Plunz is a Professor at the Graduate School of Architecture at Columbia University. Plunz’s lectures focus on the planning and preservation sector of architectural projects. During his talk at Columbia Hilltop, he emphasized the intersection between design and health care implementation. This peculiar discussion opened students perspective to the interconnectedness of seemingly separate fields. Plunz along with his team of architects designed a functional hospital in Kumasi, Ghana. In order to create a functional hospital building in Kumasi the design team had to overcome challenges concerning transportation, ecology, and health delivery. Gathering that Kumasi had no concrete transportation system, Plunz’s team of architects strategically decided to place the hospital right outside the dense downtown area of Kumasi. This way people would not have to travel through dense traffic to access care, and they could go around the city instead. This newly designed health care facility in Ghana hopes to provide better maternal health care, education and faculty to local clinics, and conduct epidemiological and disease research. Dr. Plunz also mentioned that there has been a decrease in usage of public health care, and this new facility can potentially curb this trend. The site of this new healthcare facility is expected to evolve over time, and the building is supposed to be able to cool itself in the Kumasi heat through ventilation corridors and a courtyard. The building architects plan to use natural and local materials including, bamboo, a rainwater collection system, and solar energy. Plunz’s sustainable healthcare facility design will make quality healthcare more accessible to the residents of Kumasi.

Jennifer Pomeranz: Preemption, Public Health and Equity & Mattie Renn and Jessica Penn: Quest to End Gun Violence

I was inspired by three very significant and accomplished women at the Columbia Hilltop Conference. Equipped with formidable education backgrounds, strong judgment, and a desire to do good, scholars Jennifer Pomeranz, Mattie Renn, and Jessica Pan stand as icons to their audience of current students and aspiring professionals of public health. Jennifer Pomeranz, who has an MPH and a JD, described how state preemption practices on local governments (i.e. city councils, school boards) hinder health equity. She described how local governments are laboratories of novel healthcare policy, such as mandating sodium warning labels to protect community health, and she demonstrated how state governments quell attempts of democracy to preserve the interest of corporations and trade associations. As someone who is fascinated by the intersection of local government and public health, I am compelled to further explore how public health is jeopardized when democracy is hindered. Public health, obviously, is inherently community-based and when a community’s wants and needs are neglected and censored, is public health at all ensured? Future doctor Mattie Renn and aspiring epidemiologist Jessica Pan followed up Professor Pomeranz with a plan of action pertaining to gun violence cessation that they had executed in early October. Their campaign, “Gun Violence Action Week,” gathered nurses, students and New York City community members in a weeklong workshop on understanding the breadth of gun violence in this country. They hit a strong point—gun violence is an intersectional issue. It involves domestic violence, cuts on research, and marginalized communities. It occurs every day, although media only really highlights it after mass shootings and legislative action (or a lack thereof). It’s a detrimental part of the American fabric. They recommended we become allies, ensure the sustainability of this campaign, and bring their project to college campuses across the nation. I haven’t been more prepared to mobilize.  



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