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Fulbright Impact in the Field: Global Health & COVID-19 Reunion Panel – Lessons Learned and Key Takeaways

February 8, 2021

“We know that infections: they don’t have borders, they don’t have governments. They don’t care about presidents, they don’t care about our political system. We have to do this together.”
-Igor Stoma, MD, PhD; 2017 Fulbright Visiting Scholar from Belarus to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Overview

Since the emergence of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), Fulbright participants and alumni have been working tirelessly to uplift, innovate, and find solutions to challenges facing our communities and world.

The Fulbright Impact in the Field panel series, which is open to the public, provides a digital space for Fulbright alumni experts to share their insights, expertise, and Fulbright’s impact on local and global communities. The Fulbright 75th Anniversary Special “Fulbright Impact in the Field” Reunion Panel on Global Heath & COVID-19 on January 29, 2021 reunited our original panelists from the May 2020 event for a follow-up discussion.

 

Meet the Panelists

Participating Fulbright alumni, who are physicians and scientists, shared updates about their experiences combatting the pandemic over the past year. They discussed changes in coronavirus treatment, lessons learned about the virus, the current state of vaccine production and distribution, and more.

Moderator

Imre Varju, MD, PhD, MPH, CHES (2016 Fulbright Visiting Scholar from Hungary to Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School) – Dr. Varju is a medical scientist and health communications specialist who is interested in sharing how to accurately communicate risk and public health developments.

Panelists

Serena Dasani, MD, MBA (2013 Fulbright ETA to Indonesia) – Dr. Dasani is an anesthesia resident physician at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, and has conducted research quantifying the financial impact that COVID-19 had on U.S. hospitals.
Javier Jaimes, DVM, MS, MBA, PhD (2014 Foreign Fulbright Student from Colombia to Cornell University) – Dr. Jaimes is a virologist working in research and education. He is currently studying the pathogenesis of the SARS-Co V-2, the virus behind the COVID-19 emergency.
Igor Stoma, MD, PhD (2017 Fulbright Visiting Scholar from Belarus to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center) – Dr. Stoma is Chancellor and Professor of Infectious Diseases at Gomel State Medical University in Belarus who consults on the treatment of the most complex cases of COVID-19.
Charlotte Summers, PhD, MRCP, FFICM (2013 Fulbright Visiting Scholar from the United Kingdom to University of California, San Francisco) – Dr. Summers is an academic critical care physician at Cambridge with a passion for translating basic science into therapies for critically ill patients.
Benjamin tenOever, PhD (2014 U.S. Scholar to Institut Pasteur and Ecole Normale Superieure in France) – Dr. tenOever is Director of the Virus Engineering Center for Therapeutics and Research (VECToR) at Mount Sinai and is involved in an international consortium to develop vaccines and antivirals against Novel Coronavirus (SARS-Co V-2).

 

Key Takeaways

During the discussion, panelists reaffirmed the importance of:

  1.  Public health planning and management for faster response to emergencies, including pandemics
  2.  Accurate and timely health communication to combat misinformation
  3.  Solving complex problems via international collaboration and engagement

 

After an unprecedented period of research, vaccine testing, and new solutions to public health challenges, the panelists look forward to increased focus on:

  1.  Encouraging empathy among the general population
  2.  Promoting basic scientific literacy
  3.  Improving healthcare equity and access around the world

 

To watch the panelists dive into these relevant discussions, click here.

To learn about upcoming Fulbright Impact in the Field panels and other Fulbright 75th anniversary events, sign up for the newsletter.

FLTA Foreign Fulbright Fulbright-National Geographic Reach the World U.S. Fulbright

2020 Fulbright Year in Review

December 21, 2020
From the COVID-19 pandemic, to a watershed movement in racial and social justice, 2020 has brought more change than many could have imagined.
As we look forward to a new year, the Fulbright Program is proud to share some of the ways Fulbrighters demonstrated leadership and innovation in the United States and around the world in our 2020 Fulbright Year in Review.

FLTA Foreign Fulbright

Celebrating Arabic Language Day 2020

December 18, 2020

This Arabic Language Day, we’re highlighting the contributions of outstanding Fulbrighters who live the Fulbright mission through sharing Arabic language and culture. In this Q&A, Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Chama Bououd, an Arabic language FLTA at Stetson University, shares her experience teaching remotely, her tips for learning a foreign language, and what her students have learned about Morocco.

 

1. Tell us a little about your path to Fulbright. Who or what inspired you to apply?

Chama: My name is Chama Bououd. I am from Morocco and a native speaker of Arabic. I also speak French and English. I am interested in learning from other people and curious about other cultures. I believe that, now more than ever, we need to communicate and exchange our cultures and look from another’s perspective. I saw an opportunity in the Fulbright FLTA Program to experience American culture and share my own culture and native language, and was inspired by Fulbright’s mission to promote mutual understating of cultures and people.

 

FLTA Chama Bououd introducing the Moroccan tajine, an earthenware pot and dish, to her Arabic class.

 

2. What tips and tricks have you learned for teaching a foreign language remotely? How have you engaged your students?

Chama: I had to teach remotely from home for the Fall 2020 semester. It was my first time studying and teaching online: teaching a language online is a bit demanding and can be challenging, but the primary instructor, my students, and I made it work. We did our best to cope with the circumstances and we succeeded. I tried to be creative during the classes, recording videos, using my hands and body language to explain and to overcome constraints. I shared Arabic culture, including funny expressions, music, videos, and through conversations, in order to engage all students, especially those beginning to study the Arabic script.

 

Chama teaching Arabic greetings for a beginning Stetson University Arabic language class.

 

3. What advice would you give to Arabic language learners, especially those learning via the internet?

Chama: For someone learning Arabic, I would recommend listening to Arabic music, watching movies, following pages that share Arabic content on social media, and watching Arabic videos on YouTube, etc. This enables learners to hear Arabic within context, and to see that Arabic exists beyond class and textbooks, especially for learners who do not live in an Arabic-speaking community. Besides, exposure to a foreign language improves learning, and no language can be learned in isolation from its culture.

 

Chama introducing the Arabic letter “daad” to her Arabic class.

 

4. What might an American be surprised to learn about your home country?

Chama: I noticed that some of my American students and classmates thought that all Moroccan women cover their heads with a hijab, or that we were only allowed to wear black. I explained to my students about Moroccan hospitality, and they were surprised to learn that a host will keep offering guests food, and won’t take “no” for an answer. This is not to be imposing, but rather to be hospitable. I also explained that when shopping in Morocco, you must bargain: the actual price of the product might be half of what the seller is saying, because they expect the customer to bargain.

 

Chama’s presentation on Moroccan Hatters.

 

5. What is your biggest takeaway from your Fulbright Program?

Chama: My experience in the Fulbright Program has enabled me to look at the world from a different perspective. I have met so many wonderful and helpful people who have welcomed and supported me. I have made connections and learned a lot from my students and classes at Stetson University—this will definitely help me with my academic career and future plans.

Foreign Fulbright

Learning to See Beyond What Meets the Eyes

October 26, 2020

By Uyanga Erdenebold, 2007 Fulbright Foreign Student from Mongolia

It stands clear and vivid in my memory as if it were yesterday. It was the clear, sunny morning of August 20, 2007 when I stood at the airport in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, equal degrees excited and nervous, surrounded by my family and getting ready to cross the globe to go to a country that I knew only from movies and books. As surreal as it seemed, I knew that this was the shining moment of my triumph. This was the moment I had worked for, and this is the moment that many, even myself, doubted would ever come. I had done it. I was going to the United States as the first-ever blind Fulbright Foreign Student from Mongolia. Though none of us knew at the time, this was to be the beginning of a long, transformative journey, and my relationship with the United States.

When I was 14, an American woman came to our school voluntarily and asked to teach interested students English. What struck us most was the fact that she was blind, just like us. To this day it amazes me how courageous she was to come so far from home all by herself. She ignited the first spark in me of the possibility of doing the same: traveling somewhere far and foreign and being bravely independent. She, not just by teaching me English but also by just being there, showed me that it could be done, and that I too could do it. She helped me to believe, and I was already halfway there.

Fulbright helped me to see the world, and the experience not only changed the course of my life, but more importantly, it changed me as an individual.

It freed me, quite literally, both in the physical and intellectual sense. Until I came to the United States, I had never gone anywhere by myself. I had never learned to walk with a cane. I was always accompanied either by a family member or a friend. Do you know what a privilege it is to be able to walk alone with your thoughts, stopping whenever or wherever you want to, taking as long as you would like to reach a certain place, just to wander around by yourself? That’s what the United States gave me: personal freedom. It was there that I first owned my own key to my apartment. Once I completed my cane training, I quickly moved on to guide dog training, and received my first guide dog in August 2008. My partnership with my first guide dog, Gladys, was one of the most positive, heart-warming, and transformative experiences of my life, and for this, I’m forever grateful to the United States.

 

Fulbright Foreign Student Uyanga Erdenebold with her guide dog, Gladys.

 

I was never defined by my disability, even before I came to the United States. However, before then, I was defiant, always seeking to prove my worth. What the United States taught me was that I was already an equal, an acknowledged human being with the same right to contribute to society as everyone else. This liberated me from a huge burden I had carried all my life. Now I could focus on my studies just like everyone else. I would have been fine if my professors felt differently, especially with assignments and readings. But as far as they were concerned, the only difference between the other students and myself was that I had a pretty dog.

There were difficult days, of course, especially in the beginning – days when I wondered why I left the comfort of my home and my family and friends. I felt lonely, homesick, and frustrated. But those feelings are only natural. Remembering how hard you worked to get where you are and what you hope to achieve with this experience helps shed a different light on everything.

Once, a journalist asked me what I thought was the hardest thing in my life, and I said, “Not being able to contribute.”

The basic elements of a fulfilled human life are to be relevant, to be able to contribute, and to be acknowledged. Every human experience, all human knowledge, and every human feeling finds meaning only when shared. When you are judged not by the merit of who you are, but by the perceived limitations of your disability, your right to contribute quickly gets turned upside down and becomes a right to receive. If you don’t contribute, you become irrelevant and forgotten. The unfortunate truth is that society has a tendency to generalize and apply their notions of perceived limitations on you based on a lack of certain sense or physical attribute. But is ability determined by one’s physical attributes alone? A truer indicator of ability might be experience.

 

Uyanga Erdenebold speaking at a WomEmpowered International event in Tokyo, Japan.

 

Many people with disabilities usually have been told to be “realistic” in life, and have always had to prove themselves in order to get any type of recognition and value. People always assume incompetence, and it’s always on the person with a disability to prove them wrong. To have to do that with everyone you meet is incredibly exhausting. It’s similar to being forever on trial, where everyone you meet is the jury and you’re always assumed guilty—in other words, incompetent—until proven otherwise.

My one piece of advice to everyone working with a person with a disability is: ALWAYS ASSUME COMPETENCE.

Be willing to give trust and confidence without proof. Be willing to be the ally and not the jury. Be willing to go the extra mile even if it seems futile. What society expects from disabled people is to have such strong inner self-will and awareness that we can propel ourselves forward, even when everyone we meet always expects less from us compared to our non-disabled peers. For anybody, going to college and having a job is a normal part of life, and it’s expected as a matter of course. However, when those with disabilities achieve those same things, it’s a great success and an exception to be applauded. Why? Precisely because we are not expected to be able to do those things.

 

Uyanga Erdenebold presenting at TEDx UlaanbaatarWomen.

 

Before I went to the United States, I often arranged my life and my dreams to accommodate my disability. But after my Fulbright experience, I let my disability accommodate my life. I learned that there is much more to life than what meets the eyes, and there are endless opportunities if I only allow myself to find them.

FLTA Foreign Fulbright Fulbright-National Geographic U.S. Fulbright

Looking Forward

April 30, 2020

“Working as a team to try to find a solution to this problem” – 2015 Fulbright U.S.-France Fulbright-Tocqueville Distinguished Chair and U.S. Scholar alumnus Dr. Benjamin J. tenOever continues to collaborate internationally with Marco Vignuzzi’s laboratory at the Institut Pasteur to test FDA-approved drugs in order to treat COVID-19 symptoms.

For more than 70 years, the Fulbright model of living and learning together with people of different cultures has helped forge lasting connections worldwide and has brought people and nations together to work toward common goals. This mission is more vital today than ever, and we thank the Fulbright community—participants, alumni, advisers, university and host partners, and staff at Fulbright commissions, embassies, implementing partners, and more—for coming together to take on today’s unprecedented challenges.

Malaysia ETA alumna Rachel Jacoby stays connected with her cohort, which supports their local communities across the United States through Feeding the Frontline, an organization that raises money and delivers meals to medical staff and workers fighting COVID-19.

Looking for innovative ways to create medical supplies, Fulbright Visiting Scholar Dr. Aulia Nasution, with students and colleagues of Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology (ITS) Department of Engineering Physics, made a prototype of a low-cost ventilator using an open-sourced Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) design.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We express our gratitude to Fulbright participants and alumni engaged in the fight against the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). Fulbrighters are healthcare workers, scientists, inventors, policy makers, journalists, academics, entrepreneurs, teachers, and professionals of all backgrounds. Fulbrighters are leaders, innovators, experts, and trailblazers. Fulbrighters are creative, compassionate, resilient, and generous. Fulbrighters are simply extraordinary, and we are so proud of the many ways they are taking action.

As Pakistan combats the COVID-19 pandemic, alumni Dr. Muhammad Moiz and Rana Muhammad Umer helped establish the country’s first drive-through testing facility in Karachi.

As we look forward to the future, we will begin posting stories from our Fulbright alumni, written prior to COVID-19. We hope they will continue to inspire and educate as we navigate the future together.