A Zoom screen of multiple student and faculty participants in a global health simulation with each student representing a different country and posing before the respective country flag.
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Global Health Graduate Course Features COVID-19-Focused Simulation Exercise

March 2, 2021 – Last week, students in Georgetown’s master’s program in global health had the opportunity to act as diplomats during a United Nations Security Council simulation exercise, one in which they negotiated a resolution related to COVID-19.

“In this course, our students learned concrete skills in analyzing the geopolitics that shape disease and outbreak responses, which they can use in their careers in global health,” said Dr. Matthew Kavanagh, an assistant professor who co-teaches “The Politics of Global Health and Development” with Dr. Bernhard Liese, chair of the Department of International Health.

“Whether they are setting up a clinic or conducting a study or making policy, COVID-19 shows us that today’s public health professionals need to be able to interpret and navigate political contexts,” Kavanagh explained.

‘Global Health Diplomacy’

The professor noted the graduate students indicated they spent hours preparing by conducting research and engaging in related political discussions.

“In the end, this proved not only educational, but timely,” Kavanagh said. “Our students addressed COVID economic impact, vaccine distribution, and a global cease fire. A few days later the actual UN Security Council followed their lead, though I think our students showed far more innovative thinking. I look forward to someday seeing one of them in the chair engaging in global health diplomacy. I think it will happen.”

Experiential Learning

Graduate student Niki Schroll (G’21) valued the exercise.

“I appreciated learning how countries bring their different viewpoints to tackle world issues and how so many issues that do not seem related are intertwined,” Schroll said. “I enjoyed the interactive nature of the project, since it allowed us to experience how these factors play out in real time.” 

Classmate Robert Sakaguchi (G’21) agreed. “I never knew how important a role the UN Security Council has in influencing global health agendas,” Sakaguchi said. “I also did not know how hard it is for a smaller nation to push their agenda when being overshadowed by the power of the five permanent members.” 

Editor’s Note: The university-wide master’s program in global health is administered by the Department of International Health and housed in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. (Learn more about the program.)

By Bill Cessato