An Emerging Voice Goes to Europe

-Lalit Narayan, PhD Student, Anthropology

A few months ago I was selected to be an ‘Emerging Voice’ based on an essay competition organized by the Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM) in Antwerp, Belgium. For some time now ITM has been focusing on strengthening health systems research capacity in the Global South. They view this process as ‘bridging the poles’ in order to balance the current domination of Western viewpoints in the global health arena. The Emerging Voices essay competition was aimed at recognizing young researchers from low and middle income countries who were working on innovative issues and providing them with support and mentorship in order to enable them to be better seen and heard in academic and policy circles. The end goals were to move us towards publishing our essays in a peer-reviewed journal as well as allowing us to attend the First Global Symposium on Health Systems Research.Lalit, fifth from the left, in the Alps with other participants at the conference

My essay was on language barriers in health care settings in India, a topic that I first became interested in during my medical studies in the cosmopolitan city of Bangalore in South India. There we practiced a medicine embedded within the English language in a multi-lingual setting where often patients and doctors did not speak each other’s languages. Yet research into such issues or any attempt at providing organized translation services was more or less unheard of.

During the first two weeks of November, 52 of us Emerging Voices from 29 low and middle income countries got the opportunity to travel to Antwerp, Belgium to participate in a training workshop on academic writing and presentation skills. At the end of the two weeks we got to present our research topics at the ITM Annual Colloquium. We were encouraged to use a new style of presentation known as Pecha Kucha in which 20 image rich slides automatically advance every 20 seconds. Our resulting presentations which had to be carefully choreographed were the highlight of the colloquium and the feedback we received was useful in expanding our research themes.

The next week we all bused down to Montreux, Switzerland for the First Global Symposium on Health Systems Research, a highly profile event attended by many major academic institutions, funders and international agencies. Seventeen Emerging Voices were selected to present at two sessions within the symposium. I was served as one of three Emerging Voices who were to provide feedback at the closing plenary. Overall the efforts of ITM created a structured program by which we Emerging Voices could navigate the worlds of academic publishing and international conferences. More importantly, they created a network of young researchers from the Global South who normally would not have been able to get to know each other, share ideas and collaborate on research and advocacy.