Opioid Overdose Prevention with Student Nurses

By Alison Spillane

From April 1st through 3rd, I participated in the Clinton Global Initiative University at the University of California at Berkeley, representing my Commitment to Action. This experience helped me in ways I hadn’t anticipated.  Multiple forums were held, and topics ranged from addressing mental health stigma to bolstering your commitment through fundraising or capacity building. I was able to attend a panel on mental health, and the insight surrounding the development of supportive communities for individuals living with a mental health diagnosis really resonated with me. Many opiate users experience stigma surrounding their use and are often too afraid to seek support from health care professionals when they need it most. My commitment seeks to address not just physiological overdose, but more importantly, provider bias that limits access to health promotion in the first place. Preventing an overdose starts with supporting drug users so they may reduce the potential harm that drug use places on their bodies. The continuum of care includes nurses in community, acute, and emergency care settings. Creating more inclusive, supportive care environments that are free of judgment and stigma serve to enhance access to care for drug users. Attending CGI-U reminded me that one of the greatest public health challenges our society faces is stigma. Whether it’s related to mental health, HIV status, reproductive choices, or drug use, stigma is harming, and at worst, taking lives. As health professionals living in an era with strained medical spending and sky-rocketing rates of heroin overdose, one of the greatest interventions available to us is addressing and eliminating our own biases regarding our patients. Their very lives depend on it.



A Long Winding Road

By Evan Young

When you start something that tries to find a comprehensive, sustainable solution in a field as complicated as sanitation, you’re bound to run into some obstacles. These can be anything from unexpected realities to stifling bureaucracy to an absurd amount of externalities you never took into account. The key, at least from what we’ve found, is to embrace these obstacles; take them in; embrace them; and forge on.

The direction in which you forge on is always a mystery. Nearly a year after Maz and I started our Project Dharavi solution from inside the GWU classroom of Matthew Wilkins, we’ve been taken for a wild ride. After receiving the D-Prize Grant and seeing success in the GW Business Plan Competition (where we came in Third Place Overall and won the Best International Venture Award), we saw an entire world open up in front of us that we felt compelled to explore. We needed answers to some of our most pressing questions and assumptions. So we went to find them.

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This search took us to Nicaragua and India over this past summer. In Nicaragua, we went with em[POWER] Energy Group not only to explore the potential of a pilot project at their sites, but to learn as much as we could about the lived experiences and realities of sanitation on the ground. We met families, community leaders, and organizations working on the front lines of the sanitation crisis. In India, we saw the issue of sanitation manifest itself on a complex, massive scale that only India could provide. It was in India, however, where we found something else.

Here, we came upon the realization that our Project Dharavi solution needed time and development, as we did. We saw that pressing social stigmas and governmental bureaucracy would hamper the ability to make the immediate impact we wanted. So we pivoted. It was hard, but necessary.

Instead of solely focusing on our own model, we saw the potential of working with organizations that already have great connections to the communities in which they work and best practices that have been proven over time. This was the case for ASHA (Association for Sanitation and Health Activities), a grassroots organization working to build toilets hand-in-hand with economically and socially marginalized villages in Odisha. Their deep connections to these communities foster open dialogues that lead to awareness and training on the importance of sanitation, changing and improving lives. young

Photo taken by Maz in Delhi

We hit it off with them and saw that we could provide immense value for them in a different way than we originally realized. We could help rally support for them and, in the process of doing so, change the way the world views the sanitation crisis. We realized that we had not come to see the depth and reality of the sanitation crisis until we were forced to confront it and see it for what it was. As an organization based in DC with access to a diverse network of actors, we could make this happen on a much larger scale. We could put a face on the sanitation crisis, making it real and compel people into action.

So here we are. Not quite where we thought we would be, but where we think we need to be. Over the next two months we will be launching a crowdfunding campaign to work with ASHA in the construction of 231 toilets for 231 families. This will also run in tandem with our Coming Clean Campaign, which will try to bring photographers from around the country to translate the story of the sanitation crisis for the world. (For more information on this visit http://www.asepsis.org/comingclean)

It’s been a wild ride and we could not be more excited for where it takes us now.Young2.jpg

Evan discusses sanitation conditions with slum-dwellers in Delhi

Raising awareness of counterfeit drugs

By Vivian Berni

Background: There is no guarantee that medicinal products bought online are effective, authentic or even safe. Their quality is questionable as they may contain the wrong amount of active ingredients or no active ingredients at all. In all circumstances, counterfeit medicines are manufactured secretly with no quality assurance under the most deplorable conditions. The criminals manufacturing counterfeit medicines may use any chemical or material that will help them imitate the look, texture, and taste of a generic or branded product. As a result, fake medicines can cause harm to patients and sometimes even lead to death.

Patients shopping online are especially susceptible to purchasing their prescription drugs from generic, questionable sources in their hope of saving money while meeting their health needs. To take on this large-scale challenge, Stay Safe Pharma will focus on assisting low and middle income patients, including college students, residing in South Florida to become aware of the danger of counterfeit drugs and the risks associated with online medicine purchases.

Birth of an Idea: Stay Safe Pharma originates from my experience working in supply chain within the Life Sciences and Health Care sector. Having attended conferences on security, supply chain integrity, and good distribution practice, you learn about the complexities involved in getting patients access to safe medicines. One day I was emptying out my spam email; I recall receiving a message that prompted me to purchase medicines at discounted rates. The website was odd. No contact details or phone provided. The website even claimed no prescription was necessary. What was happening here? That’s when I realized how easy it was for anyone to be lured into buying cheap, unregulated medications online.

Steps Taken: As a GWU graduate student in Public Health, I’ve completed a course in Social and Behavioral Approaches to Health. As my final project, I successfully developed a Stay Safe Pharma intervention utilizing a logic model and it’s respective constructs. This will be providing me with a fantastic foundation to carry out my commitment to action.

Next Steps: Start seeking out partners to support my initiative!

CGI U Experience: As a University of Miami Alumni, it was a wonderful experience to revisit my Alma Matter, and what better way than through the Clinton Global Initiative University. The energy was vibrant, students from across the globe representing different nationalities and ideas. It was contagious. I am fortunate to have been able to represent George Washington University.

CGI U Highlights: Meeting Donna Shalala, President of the University of Miami, once again as an alumni. Being present during Han Rosling’s the Power of Big Data, ‘‘If you do not know the present, you cannot think about the future.’’ Hearing from experts about ‘‘The Future of Energy,’’ concept of interconnected environment. Networking with students and learning about what inspires and motivates them.

No more wasted opportunity in the waiting room

By Amishi Desai

My commitment is providing care to children whose parents have cancer. I was deeply inspired by Camp Kesem, an organization that provides weeklong camp-like activities for children whose parents have cancer. Often, these children are neglected because their parents are going through much stress. I am also interested in promoting literacy among the youth. Thus, my commitment to read to children in the waiting rooms while their parents are in the hospitals came about. In the past, I competed my Girl Scouts Gold Award on a similar topic, promoting literacy to underserved Latino populations in North Carolina. Thus, I decided to create No Wait Smiles to help children not feel neglected and overall help their mental wellbeing to make them feel important during this tough process. I’m taking steps to contact different hospitals, recruit volunteers and start explaining to people what my project is about, and what inspired it. Some hanging questions I still have are which population am I going to reach, what activities will I complete with them that fits in a hospital setting, which books I’ll read to them, and if I can create a mini library for the waiting room.

The journey there: me and my CGI U roommate, Sophia Lin, were traveling together starting our day at 8am. The day after a snow storm is always hectic but due to the icy roads, the 8am flight was pushed back 2 hours, and we missed our connecting in LGA and were on 2 standby flights but finally made it to Miami at 7pm! I had a really insightful conversation with a University of Michigan medical student who started monitoring patients in Sri Lanka through data collection and online tools; it was really neat to see how she tracked the students. It got me thinking about how I can help students through technology. A speaker that stood out to me was Chelsea Clinton. She was very eloquent in her speaking and the points she brought up were very relevant to women. She seemed to be very jovial and relatable even though she is a Clinton. She seemed down to earth. I met some awesome people who’re very deeply connected to a certain area they want to serve, which helped me feel closer to everyone who attended. There were people from all over the nation and we were all here for the same reason which was very empowering. I loved the networking opportunity especially the poster showcase at the end. It was a great experience in terms of the venue, speakers and students I’ve met. I even learned about things outside my realm of interest such as finances and learned about different apps to help with financial literacy, for instance. I got contact information for many people and hope to see them again/connect and learn more about each other’s commitments/ support them too.