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Partnerships Beyond Borders
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Partnerships Beyond Borders

By Tapati Dutta, assistant professor of Health Sciences

Tapati Dutta, Assistant Professor of Health Sciences

For many of us, being from small towns and villages is one barrier to visualizing ourselves as stakeholders in the “big picture.” Because of this challenge, students often struggle to relate to the broad, complex scope of upper division Public Health courses. To better connect our bubbles with the bigger world-scape, we practice a “glo-cal” (global-local) perspective. For the sake of global health equity, we must embrace these connective ideas now more than ever, especially in our classrooms.

One way that I integrate this partnership mentality is through Participatory Teaching Co-Learning Mechanisms, which essentially adapts the art of democratic methodologies, like storytelling, as a pedagogic strategy. For example, by sharing my TEDx Talk with my students, and in turn inspiring them to share their stories, we transformed classmates into peers and the teacher (me) into a friendly mentor. With our newfound intercultural humility, we worked together to create conversational engagements between students and global health stakeholders, which ultimately develops sustainable community-academia partnerships.

In each of the courses I teach, I have two goals for my students: 1. to learn and grow with the course in an organic and immersive process and 2. to develop multisectoral scaffolding for public health partnerships to bolster universal connections and shared humanity. Such “cool” strategies, as my students would say, have not only yielded inclusive and equity-based teaching-learning but have also held symbiotic synergies in devising those community-academia partnerships.

One recent example is a collaboration I helped conceptualize with the Foundation for Sustainable Development, a community development organization in Uganda. In Spring 2021, with the support of FLC’s Career Services, we launched a 10-week online course for two FLC student interns: one focused on providing safe drinking water and the other on improving rural health.   

Similarly, in a collaboration with the Indiana University School of Public Health, my students and I researched  the COVID-19 vaccination perception in the FLC community. It’s been tricky and fun playing multiple roles together as research participants, interviewees, instrument testers, and data analysts. We’ve all had a chance to be the teacher and the taught—not a crowd, but rather a “participatory company.”

Throughout the term, I also invited global health experts from a variety of perspectives, identities, and practices to present in my Global Health course. A senior policy advisor for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention opened her guest lecture by sharing, “I am Blackfeet from Montana…and one of the only nine Native Americans at the CDC.” This statement thrilled the students, especially after hearing how her work directly impacts the health and well-being of Native Americans. Because of this connection, many of the students are currently engaged in researching some of the CDC’s strategic initiatives, culminating in yet another surprising partnership.

A final (and one of my favorites) expression of shared stories transpired as students wrote thank you letters to these guest lecturers. Whether the dialogue featured topics on social media dynamics or health disparities, students expressed their gratitude and insights into what they learned. Absolutely without any filters or edits, I feel proud that our students are writing such profound notes and establishing positive relationships with global health researchers and practitioners.   

The opportunity to make this kind of positive difference in many lives, including my own, highlights how the Participatory Teaching Co-Learning Mechanism is indeed more than just a teaching-learning tool; it is a systemic process to activate a continuum of transformational “me” into a collective “we.”

2021 Global Public Health partners + lecturers
Jon Agley

Deputy director of research, Prevention Insights, Indiana University School of Public Health, USA

Suvabrata Dey

Regional manager, Nutrition International, Asia

Laura Haderxhanaj

Senior service fellow, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA

Jean-Louis Lamboray

Chair, The Constellation; former team leader, Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS; senior public health specialist, World Bank, Belgium

Mauro Walden-Montoya

Board member, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, USA

Margaret Nassozi

Executive director, Foundation for Sustainable Community Development, Uganda

Gopal Sankaran

Professor, Global Health Policy, West Chester University, USA; former consultant, World Health Organization's National Smallpox Eradication Program, India and Global Program on AIDS, Switzerland

Ravi Verma

Regional director, International Center for Research on Women, Asia Region

Seh Welch

Senior policy advisor, Global HIV and TB Division, USA

Greg Zimet
Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Indiana University School of Medicine, USA

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