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UT students invited to compete in Emory University health competition

by Lindsay Price

Students from UT will have the opportunity to travel to Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia from March 14-17 for its annual health competition. 30 teams from across the globe will partake in the contest. Health experts from Emory University, the CDC and other leading institutions will be present for the occasion. Cash prizes are awarded to the top four teams, including a $6,000 grand prize for the winners. The Participants’ Choice Award and the Innovation Award will also be awarded to eligible teams.

Emory University has hosted the event since 2010, bringing students from other universities around the world since 2012. Emory’s website states, “The Emory Global Health Case Competition is a unique opportunity for Emory graduate and undergraduate students from multiple schools and disciplines to come together to promote awareness of and develop innovative solutions for 21st century global health issues.”

Miloslava Plachkinova, assistant professor of cybersecurity, was instrumental in bringing UT representatives to the competition three years ago. This has allowed them to compete against Ivy League schools such as Harvard, who are vetted in the ins-and-outs of the competition.

“Some issues they’ve worked in the past have been gun violence in Honduras, smoking in India, for example, child obesity in Mexico, mental health in Sri Lanka; so any problem anywhere in the world,” said Plachkinova. “Last time, it was about the World Cup in 2022; there was a hypothetical situational viral outbreak. How would you handle this type of crisis? It’s always very interesting to hear some different perspectives that students have.”

Plachkinova emphasized the requirement for an interdisciplinary team, including majors that may be unrelated to the medical field. The team must have students from at least three different disciplines in order to tackle issues from a variety of perspectives. She discussed the scope of benefits available to students who enter the competition.

“First of all, they get this great experience to learn from their peers in other disciplines. In the past, we’ve had students from allied health, psychology, finance, cybersecurity, and it’s rare on UT that you get to interact with so many different students,” said Plachkinova. “The other cool thing is this whole event is organized by Emory University. So we will be visiting Atlanta, and their campus is right next to the CDC. It’s a great event; I did it as a student and I thought it was so interesting, so fascinating to see how much there is outside of your specific field.”

Cyber Security graduate student Forrest Harrison was a member of UT’s team in the 2018 competition. He explained that the team was nervous when they heard about some of the prestigious schools that they would face, but that they were able to keep pace with the best universities.

“I enjoyed the structure of the competition, the fast-pace, the diversity among the competition and within our own team. This competition was not easy, but it is so much fun and everyone on our team will always remember it,” said Harrison. “We met people from around the world, travel, and it truly challenges you on multiple levels including the depth of your knowledge, public speaking, team building, leadership, and many more. You will return from this competition having gained priceless skills and exposure to things you did not expect to be involved in.”

Students can sign up to try out for the competition now. Those who register will be emailed a case on Feb. 1 and will construct five minute presentations regarding solutions on Feb. 2 from 2-4 p.m.

Lindsay Price can be reached at Lindsay.price@spartans.ut.edu

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