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UNC American Mock World Health Organization prepares for annual conference

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Photo of last year's conference attendees courtesy of Ethan Rayala.

UNC’s chapter of the American Mock World Health Organization is approaching its 10th anniversary, and the group is gearing up for this year to be a charged conference, theme co-director of AMWHO Chidima Ahulamibe said.

To commemorate their anniversary, conference co-director Viha Patel said this year’s conference, which is scheduled for April 5 through 7, will include a panel of past AMWHO members who will discuss how their involvement in the organization has impacted their respective careers.

The annual conference is an opportunity for students in chapters across the country, state and this year, the world, to meet at UNC and simulate the World Health Assembly of the World Health Organization interactively, Ahulamibe said. A range of roles are played by students, from representing a country as a delegate to overseeing regions as a dais.

This year, the conference's theme is ​​rectifying historical and contemporary prejudices and depressions undermining global health — a topic that Ahulamibe said can be uncomfortable but also extremely important.

“I really want this year to be extremely impactful," she said. "I think regardless, it will be just simply because of everything that's happening in the world right now – global health and global conflict are at the forefront."

Ahulamibe said there will be five sub-themes to address specific issues within this year’s overarching theme, including the effects of colonialism and imperialism; racism in healthcare; ethnic persecution and health; gender, sexual and queer-based violence and migrant health and religious persecution.

With each sub-theme, Ahulamibe said participants will analyze case studies reflecting the issues in certain regions. For the migrant health and religious persecution sub-theme, UNC AMWHO plans to facilitate research on pertinent issues like the Russo-Ukrainian War and the inadequacies of unequal Palestinian healthcare.

Along with this research, Patel said students will also learn from speakers working directly in fields related to each respective sub-theme. Patel said professionals in the public health field will be involved in this year’s conference, including keynote speaker Susan Kim, principal deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Global Affairs of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

During their Saturday lunch break, Patel said participants can engage in a Lunch and Learn networking opportunity event, where they will be placed in smaller groups and speakers will come in and present information in a casual environment. On the last day of the conference, participants will vote on position papers developed and send their final conclusions to the World Health Organization.

Ahulamibe said students of all backgrounds are welcome to participate in the conference, and students do not have to be members of AMWHO to register. No matter what field you are in, she said public health knowledge can apply.

“People will be able to see how interdisciplinary global public health is. It really does call upon all disciplines, even the disciplines you don't think would pertain to global health,” she said.

Conference co-director Bhaumi Shah said there will be different perspectives represented at the event, with students coming in from Johns Hopkins University, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Kentucky as well as some high school students in North Carolina. She said participants will see what public health problems and policy issues are at the forefront of different countries.

Benjamin Meier, professor of global health policy and faculty advisor of AMWHO, said he is inspired by students who engage in debates related to global health diplomacy and the importance of countries working together for solutions to health threats.

“Global health policy is really essential in responding to health threats of a globalizing world, where we recognize that no single country acting alone can wall itself off from disease,” he said.

During her first year participating in the conference, Ahulamibe said that given the nature of the topics covered, she was initially intimidated. After experiencing it, she said she was emboldened by the intelligence and eloquence of her peers’ perspectives.

“Don't let fear deter you from speaking your mind," she said. "Try to draw strength from those around you. In turn, I feel that people can also be a wealth of strength that others can draw from by speaking their minds.”

Interested parties can find more information on UNC AMWHO's website, and late registration will remain open until one week before the event.

@dailytarheel | university@dailytarheel.com

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