Betsy Asma, Globa Health Fellow, chronicles her recent trip to India for the WHO Global Health Forum on Medical Devices
Last week, I was given the incredible opportunity to travel to Visakhapatnam, India to present the amazing work of Rice360° at the 4th WHO Global Health Forum on Medical Devices. This forum happens every 2 years and serves as an opportunity to disseminate and share information on medical devices for global health. The theme of this year’s forum was “Increasing Access to Medical Devices”.
Visakhapatnam (or Vizag for short) is literally directly across the world from Houston, Texas! It took 3.5 days of travel total, 7 flights (3 there and 4 back), passing through 6 different countries. With flight paths and layovers, it was actually more efficient to return to Houston continuing traveling east to west so I actually circled the world to participate in this conference! New life goal accomplishedJ
Over 1000 delegates participated from across the world representing over 90 countries. I loved the diversity of experiences and thoughts and cultures and languages! While the working language of the conference was officially English, presentations and discussions were often a mix of French, English and Telugu (the native language of Vizag). There were live stream translations between the three languages and we all wore headphones programmed to our preferred language. This meant a productive panel discussion could occur between an English speaker, French speaker AND Telugu speaker. The thoughtful & seamless execution of these live translations was my favorite detail about the conference, allowing delegates to participate even if they were not comfortable speaking in English.
Vizag, in the state of Andhra Pradesh, is an industrial port city on the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean. The conference was located on the AMTZ (Andhra Pradesh MedTech Zone) campus, a brand new industrial park with plans to be the medical device manufacturing capital of India.
India was so colorful; everywhere you looked, there were golden temples, sparkling paint and brightly colored sarees. My eyes stayed glued to the window on every single bus ride so I did not miss anything but also just to watch the traffic… Vizag had some of the worst traffic and crazy driving I have seen in my entire life! The 18 km journey from town to the AMTZ campus took over 1 hour each way.
My favorite part of the conference was meeting global health leaders from across the world and realizing we all have the same goal of appropriate and accessible health care. I was amazed at the diverse & creative solutions happening everywhere in terms of increasing access to medical devices. Breakout sessions included a wide range of topics surrounding innovation, regulation, selection, affordability, management, and safe use of medical technologies for global health priorities.
Presenting at this conference was such an amazing experience to collaborate with leaders committed to increasing access to medical technologies! My biggest takeaway was the inspiration that so many smart & talented people are tirelessly working on collaborative & multidisciplinary teams to tackle global health challenges. Thank you Rice 360° for this incredible opportunity to experience, learn and participate on such a global stage!