IUP Cook Honors College Student Attends Annual Unite For Sight Global Health Conference at Yale University

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A recent IUP Cook Honors College Chemistry major utilizes the Cook Achievement Fund to attend the Unite for Sight Global Health Conference at Yale.

Training Refugees and Villagers As Community Health Workers

At the conclusion of every Core unit, Cook Honors College students are asked to approach a deceptively simple question: "What, therefore, should we do?" Kelly Seibert, an IUP chemistry major and recent CHC graduate, decided to use what she learned about ethics and reason to become an optometrist. Shortly before graduating, Kelly received funding through the Cook Honors College Achievement Fund to attend the Unite for Sight Global Health Conference, which was held at Yale University from April 18th-19th, 2009.

According to their mission statement, "Unite for Sight is a non-profit organization that empowers communities worldwide to improve eye health and eliminate preventable blindness." The Global Health Conference is held annually in order to provide networking and education to professionals, students, and volunteers who are interested in global eye care and blindness prevention, which the organization says is preventable 80% of the time. Kelly joined approximately 2,200 attendees, whom she describes as "the best minds in optometry research, social entrepreneurship, public health, sustainable development, and volunteerism from over 55 countries."

A quick glance at the conference's itinerary is somewhat overwhelming. Presentations were offered on a diverse range of topics, including "Training Refugees and Villagers As Community Health Workers," "Molecular Mechanisms of Parasite Immune Evasion," and "Eye Care America: Providing Eye Care Needs For America's Uninsured by MDs." The conference also offered film screenings and discussion sessions, in which participants were asked to consider topics such as the importance of innovation, the proper management of health care delivery in resource-poor settings, and the characteristics of successful health programs.

"At times," Kelly admits, "the variety of presentations available made it difficult to choose which to attend."

Despite the number of presentations and the high attendance rate, Kelly was able to connect one-on-one with presenters and fellow attendees. "At an optional Social Innovation & Health Delivery Lunch Forum," she remembers, "I found myself sitting across from a gentleman who we later found to be on the medical school admissions committee for Harvard, and next to a girl my age who had lived in India for two years as a Unite For Sight volunteer. Also sitting with us were two medical school students, a major philanthropist, and an optometrist and her husband who were considering moving to Honduras to be Unite For Sight volunteers."

Kelly took full advantage of the educational and networking opportunities her Achievement Fund experience afforded her. "Being able to speak about my Unite For Sight conference experiences and having gained a better understanding about the need for this Global Health initiative gave me an edge at my Optometry School interviews," she says, "and I am happy to say I was quickly admitted to my first-choice school, the College of Optometry at Indiana University at Bloomington, where I will be attending this coming semester, Fall 2009."

Kelly attributes this auspicious beginning to her career in part to the IUP Cook Honors College and the Achievement Fund, without which she would not have been able to attend the Unite for Sight conference. She also encourages other students with an interest in eye-care, public health, or non-profit development to consider attending the conference next year.

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Robert E Cook Honors College
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