By Matthew Rafiei, Adriana Cordova, Rasheed Durowoju, and Elise Smith, graduate students from the Global Medicine Program at the University of Southern California.
Innovation is empowerment. This was a fundamental lesson learned by a group of students following a lecture by Christopher Fabian, the co-director of the Innovation Unit at UNICEF, and Norah Maki. A selection of ten graduate students alongside their student services advisor from the Global Medicine Program at the University of Southern California recently visited UNICEF in New York City. A current faculty member and former UNICEF staff, Dr. Maryam Farzanegan, who also served as a mentor to the students during their time at UNICEF, organized this study trip. The students gained insight on UNICEF’s mandate, children’s rights, equity and social justice, and the rights of the most marginalized populations throughout the world.
They also learned about the current projects of the Innovation Unit, the principles that buoy their initiatives, and several activities focusing on youth engagement scattered around the world. However, their greatest lesson on innovation did not come in the form of an emerging technology; it came as innovation in how we think about human development. For instance, rather than providing generous donations of technology such as an abundance of mobile phones lacking a supportive infrastructure, the Innovation Unit builds off the existing resources within a region through community involvement to improve the lives of those citizens.
The Innovation Unit’s unparalleled vision, emphasizing worldwide connectivity and equity for the prosperity of the future, inspired the students to share their experience with the remainder of their program. The students felt that the breadth of this vision goes beyond those who strictly work in international health and can be applied to our future physicians and health care professionals, who are also students committed to making the world a better place. Therefore, upon their return, they presented highlights from their meeting in a round table event to a large audience including graduate and medical students, alumni, and faculty.
The presentation prompted several questions and received a warm response from the audience. More importantly, by sharing their experience at UNICEF, the audience gained a new perspective of innovation – empowerment and social justice. The distribution of the Innovation Unit’s distinct vision to people of all walks of life is the first step in empowerment and subsequently leads to the achievement of connectivity and equity for all.
**On behalf of the entire Global Medicine Program at USC, we would like to acknowledge and express our deep appreciation for all UNICEF speakers and staff who work tirelessly to make the world a better place for our children.