Global Health Competition Team

Four Candler Master of Divinity students recently got the chance to apply their pastoral skills to a fictional East African refugee camp that was in the midst of a mock budget crisis. The experience garnered them first and second place awards in Emory’s National Global Health Case Competition—and a new look at how to engage with real international issues.

Jason Myers, Katrina Moore and Emmy Corey were among nearly 120 students from 12 U.S. universities who participated as members of multidisciplinary teams to address a mock global health issue in a collaborative and competitive environment. Candler/Rollins student Gretchen van Ess served as the competition’s lead coordinator.

Sponsored by Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health, the competition involved 20 teams of five students each, representing at least three academic disciplines.

Taking first place were Myers and his teammates from Goizueta Business School, the Laney Graduate School's Master of Development Practice Program, and the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. (See photo. Myers is far left.) Their “People Powered Growth” solution emphasized encouraging and facilitating skills already present among the refugees within the camp, and creating an independent economy based on local agriculture and trading of goods, in an effort to limit the need for external resources and assistance.

Myers said they came up with their approach by applying business analysis, community development skills, public health resources, and theological pathos. Most importantly, he added, “We used the art of narrative to remind others and themselves of the human lives in the refugee camps.”

“My calling is to communities of diversity and marginalization,” said Myers. “I relished the opportunity to engage the rich wisdom of others in ways that enriched my own theological studies and vocational calling.”

Moore’s team won second place for the idea of providing rabbit farming for the camp’s inhabitants. A third-year MDiv, Moore made sure her group’s approach was sensitive to the diversity of tribal religions.

“I took part because I wanted to see what my theological education could contribute to the area of public health,” said Moore, who begins serving Atlanta’s Greater Piney Grove Baptist Church this spring as Children’s Pastor. “I had the opportunity to meet those in different fields from me and to contribute my interfaith knowledge to the conversation. This will allow me to provide a stronger contribution to my congregation, and to stay thoroughly aware of public health issues that specifically affect children.”

The competition has expanded both within and outside Emory during the last three years, with many participants explaining that the multidisciplinary aspect and realistic case studies provide one of the more real-world experiences that they will have as students.

Corey, a first-year MDiv, decided to join the competition because she thought the experience would be crucial to her work this summer. She’s traveling to Nairobi, Kenya, with a team of Global Health Institute Field Scholars and will serve as the team’s resident theologian.

“The case competition gave me the opportunity to think deeply about the cause and effect of various policies enacted on different populations,” Corey said.

Van Ess, who will graduate this spring bearing the distinction of being Emory’s first Master of Divinity/Master of Public Health joint degree recipient, thinks the real-world aspect of the competition is vital for understanding the link between theology, the Church, and global health issues.

“The competition is important for Candler students because it allows them to be expert theologians and think holistically,” she said. “Ministers and theologians must ask, ‘What is the Church’s response?’ when faced with a global issue such as refugees. Furthermore, having a member with a theological perspective on the team reminds everyone to consider cultural and religious issues. The theologian advocates for the people.”

Eight Emory teams participated in the event. Guest teams came from Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, Princeton University, Rice University, Texas A&M University, University of Alabama at Birmingham, University of California at San Francisco, University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern California, Vanderbilt University and Yeshiva University.

—Rebecca Baggett contributed to this report.