Reflections on PHTT: Past Participant Interview #3

With the rolling application deadline for non-NYUAD students right around the corner, some of you might be wondering what type of experience PHTT would provide and what happens to the interventions designed by various groups after the two-day conference. To answer some of these questions, we reached out to a double PHTT 2017/2018 alumnus, and a member of the winning team of last year’s conference, Rama Alhariri. Rama is a third-year student at New York University Abu Dhabi who calls both Syria and United States home. She is majoring in Biology with a minor in Peace Studies.

PHTT Interviewer (P): Why did you decide to participate in PHTT 2018? What was that experience like? 

Rama (R): I participated in PHTT twice, once during my freshman year when the topic was on dental health and again for PHTT 2018. During both years of my participation, I was interested in the experience because I wanted to learn more about public health and see if it was in line with my career ambition. As a first-year student participating in PHTT 2017, the experience left a very positive impression on me. I had connected really well with my team members and loved the atmosphere of learning in a fast-paced environment only to apply some of that knowledge under the high-pressure of time constraints. Hearing other groups’ interventions expanded my perspective on just how many different interventions you can plan for a single idea and it inspired me to join the conference in 2018.

P: What public health issue did you have to tackle at the conference and how did your team come up with your interventions?

R: The 2018 Public Health Think Tank that I was a part of tackled the issue of cardiovascular disease in the UAE. For the conference, I was a part of a group comprised of one NYUAD student and three students from different universities around the region. During the morning lectures offered by various professionals, my team and I scribed down important notes and statistics. Understanding research and statistics is an important part of tackling any issue which is why in addition to the lectures offered by professionals in the first morning, my group members and I made sure to take notes based off the papers we had to read before the conference. Coming prepared allows you to develop a more nuanced perspective of the health issue. For example, because obesity is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and there is a high rate of childhood and adolescent obesity in the UAE, we focused on structuring our intervention around obesity. When my group and I resolved to focus on this issue, we dedicated time to brainstorm possible ideas, making sure to include everyone’s ideas. We narrowed down our top two ideas and planned extensively for the first, making sure to go over the rubric criteria and address all of the points. We ultimately planned an intervention that focused on developing an after-school community program with high school and university aged peers teaching interactive health classes to children.

P: Was your team able to progress towards making the intervention designed into a reality? Could you please elaborate on the process for us and explain where the intervention is now?

R: Progressing with the intervention after PHTT can be a bit of a challenge as many of your group members may live in different emirates and have different schedules. My group members and I met a few times to discuss an overall plan of how we would like to accomplish tasks, such as outreach, further developing our evaluation measure as well as designing a curriculum. 

As many of the group members have graduated and moved to different places, it has remained difficult to continue planning the intervention. As a result, I began collaborating with another student at New York University who founded her own non-profit called NewWorld, with a similar goal to our intervention which is to empower high school students to address a communal issue and plan an intervention. This program ranges from addressing political issues to health ones. I will then become a mentor to high school students interested in addressing community health topics and will finalize the development of the intervention with them and even recruit them as volunteers for the project to proceed with the actual implementation.

We hope this interview provides a more detailed description as to how PHTT has been able to effectively impact change by providing space and resources for public health interventions. We are looking forward to the amazing ideas and the inclusive community we aim to create through PHTT 2019!