Unite for Sight To Hold International Health Conference at Yale

Unite for Sight, a non-profit organization founded by a Yale student that provides eye care to medically underserved people around the globe, will hold its fifth annual International Health Conference on April 12 and 13, at Yale.

The conference will bring together over 180 speakers and more than 2,000 participants from five continents and 54 countries, including Angola, Sudan, Ghana, Mongolia and India.

The event will serve as forum for the exchange of ideas about the best ways to improve public health and international development. In keeping with Unite for Sight’s mission, a number of the presentations will focus on eye care, but there will also be discussions on topics ranging from infectious diseases to the environment and global health, nutrition, women’s health, humanitarian emergencies, the HIV/AIDS crisis, tropical diseases, refugees, children’s health and more.

There will be five keynote addresses:

  • Global Health: Challenges and Opportunities in the 21st Century by Dr. Susan Blumenthal, former U.S. assistant surgeon general, now the Distinguished Adviser for Health and Medicine at the Center for the Study of the Presidency in Washington, D.C. and a clinical professor at Georgetown and Tufts University Schools of Medicine;
  • Bridging the Implementation Gap in Global Health by Dr. Jim Yong Kim, co-founder of Partners in Health, a non-profit organization devoted to providing “a preferential option for the poor in health care,” and director of the Francois Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at the Harvard School of Public Health;
  • Issues in Global Women’s Health by Dr. Allan Rosenfeld, dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University;
  • Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet by Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and special adviser to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon; and
  • Millennium Village Project by Dr. Sonia Ehrlich Sachs, health care coordinator for Millennium Villages, a U.N. initiative to invest in impoverished villages to help them escape extreme poverty.

Jeffrey Sachs and Jim Yong Kim will also lead plenary sessions on “The Need for a Global Coalition of Good” and “Building Capacity with Community Health Outreach Workers,” respectively.

Over 30 Yale professors and students will give presentations at the conference. The faculty speakers will include Dr. Michael Cappello, director of the Yale World Fellows Program, an initiative to build a global network of emerging leaders; Professors Nora Groce and Jennifer Ruger, director and co-director, respectively, of the Yale/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Health Promotion at Yale School of Health; Professor Dean Karlan, president and founder of Innovations for Poverty Action; and Dr. Michele Barry, global health director for the Yale School of Medicine’s Office of International Health, among others.

Presentations by Yale students will include “Project Phokas: Photography, Film and Eye Care” and “A Sustainable Approach to Nutrition for People Living with HIV/AIDS in Rwanda.” Several students will also discuss their experiences as Unite for Sight volunteers.

Sessions will be held at Woolsey Hall, Battell Chapel, William L. Harkness Hall, Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall and the Law School. For a complete schedule and registration information, visit the Unite for Sight website.

During the opening session of the conference on April 12, Unite for Sight will honor volunteers who have made the greatest contributions to Unite for Sight and to global eye care. Yale students receiving the Volunteer of the Year Award are Rosh Sethi, Roshan Sethi, and Chiwing “Jessica” Qu. Also being honored is Dr. Aron Rose, associate clinical professor at Yale School of Medicine, who volunteered with his family in Ghana.

Unite for Sight was founded in 2000 at Yale by then-sophomore Jennifer Staple to provide eye screening and education for the medically underserved population of New Haven, Connecticut. The organization has now grown to include a force of over 4,000 volunteers working through 90 chapters, based at universities, medical schools, corporations and high schools worldwide. In 2006 and 2007 Unite for Sight restored sight to 10,062 patients and provided eye care to over 300,000 individuals.

A Yale chapter of Unite for Sight continues to provide vision screenings and education programs in local community centers. In addition, more than 25 Yale undergraduate students participate in Unite for Sight’s international programs annually in India and Ghana through the Yale Undergraduate Career Services Internship Program. The volunteers participate in hands-on clinical work while assisting doctors to provide free eye care in remote, rural villages. Unite for Sight is featured weekly on CNN International, and many Yale students who participated in the Unite for Sight programs have been featured on CNN International.