The UW’s first full year of its global health minor starts … now!

Speaking of Millennials, those young people in their 20s and early 30s we in the media have (annoyingly?) labeled as such, here’s more evidence that this generation is intensely interested in doing some serious global good.

The University of Washington’s Global Health Department’s new undergraduate program.

Started last January, mid-school year, the global health minor was launched largely due to undergraduate students’ desire (here’s a story featuring one of the ring-leaders, Sarah Dawson) to get going now rather than wait to work on global health issues as graduate student in public health, medicine or some such.

This week marks the start of the first full year of the UW’s global health minor.

UW students wandering around looking for direction at start of 2011 school year

While hordes of students wandered around campus looking for direction, or for those free granola bars from some church organization I’d never heard of, others were hunkered down playing a game of global health and development trivia.

“What percentage of our GDP, our gross domestic product, is spent on overseas development?” asked UW civil engineering student Dean Chahim, one of the organizers of the event. Chahim is coordinator of a student anti-poverty organization called Critical Development Forum. Here’s what I wrote about an event they did last year.

Some 30, mostly freshman, UW students had come to learn more about the new global health undergraduate program. But now, they were being pressed to reveal how much they know already about matters of global health, poverty and foreign aid.

The students formed teams, with names like Healthy Swag, One Love and “Smiley Face” (not the words, they stressed, but just the symbol, or ’emoticon’). Challenged by Chahim they went into brainstorm mode.

Team 'One Love' ponders global health trivia at the UW

So what’s the answer? Chahim said the U.S. spends 0.21 percent of its GDP on overseas development. The students groaned that it was a trick question. They thought he meant how much of the federal budget is spent on foreign aid and development. That’s a whopping one percent.

The students were quizzed on a number of fronts and did pretty well, though they oddly had some trouble deciding on who the richest man in the world is today. He happens to be the guy who helped fund the UW’s global health program — not to mention much of global health in general. Not Carlos Slim, no.

After the contest, they were encouraged to look into the program more. Some recent graduates of the UW global health minor like Lauren Summers talked to the freshman:

“I started out as a pre-med student because I thought that’s what I needed to do,” said Summers, who has since changed her strategy to focus on affecting more population-based change — rather than just treating disease. “You don’t have to want to be a doctor.”

Dawson was also there and spoke briefly, though she failed to mention she had just returned from spending weeks on the Thai-Burmese border working with refugees to set up medical clinics and training programs. No big deal for her, I guess.

Jennifer Lucero-Earle, assistant director of the UW’s global health resource center and a co-organizer of the trivia event, said the UW popped out four student graduates with the global health minor last year. As of today, Lucero-Earle said, there are 82 UW students registered as having the global health minor.

“We suspect at least 200 students are working towards completing the minor but many cannot officially enroll until they have completed 90 credits and have declared a major,” she said.

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Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at]humanosphere.org or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.