Growing as Leaders for System Change

May 31, 2024

“Problems predict solutions” argues Scott Burris, famous lawyer, and public health specialist, who is also this week’s co-course director.

The Salzburg Maastricht University Seminar in Public Health Strategy II brought together law, public health, and advocacy seamlessly. The course was the second in a duology, with the first public health strategy seminar taking place in December 2023. During the first of these sessions, fellows were instructed to identify a possible policy change goal that might do good in their health system, city, or nation.

After spending six months in their 18 respective home countries, the 25 fellows came together again as a group to discuss their policies. As part of their preparation for the second course in the series, they had to prepare a detailed “problem-solution-hypothesis”. This involved identifying a real issue and finding a possible solution in the form of a policy action. This policy could be the change of an existing rule or the invention of a new and improved rule. These policies included but were not limited to tobacco control, the implementation of HIV screenings, the protection of footpaths, and the reduction of energy poverty.

Scott Burris explained that after the fellows’ completion of this second-level course, the faculty has high expectations of the participants once they return to their institutional settings:

“The faculty aimed to support fellows to act as leaders for positive change in their workplaces, localities, and countries. We wanted them to be comfortable using a range of tools for change, including research, advocacy, and law. We equipped them with tools and knowledge that they can continue to use as they grow in their professional roles throughout their careers.”

Scott Burris summarized the course as “Public Health Strategy II focused on practical skills in policy development, advocacy, implementation, and evaluation. These skills were nested in broader discussions of leadership and strategy that supported fellows in their growth as leaders for system change”.

The power team Katarzyna Czabanowska from Maastricht University and Scott Burris from Temple University motivated the participants to problem-solve and improve their policy solutions. The course directors were joined by Timo Clemens from Maastricht University, Mikhail Golichenko from the HIV Legal Network, Dr. Salman Rawaf from Imperial College London, and Dr. Farhang Tahzib from the UK Public Health Ethics Committee. It was remarkable how the faculty’s distinct positions, including lawyers, doctors, professors, and researchers, combined into a harmonious and incredibly educational whole during the seminar week. The fellows benefitted from these diverse disciplines, gathering key aspects from each of the faculty’s lectures and personal advice.

The interactive week was filled with 14 didactic lectures, eight group work sessions, two participants’ strategy presentation sessions, one large group discussion on “Strategy as a Philosophy for Good Practice”, and two additional sessions in which fellows learned about speaking in public and conflict resolution.

The most important lesson that the seminar taught the fellows was that each of them has the power to be the bearer of real policy change in their communities and countries.

This week was a transformative experience, empowering me to advocate for and contribute to the improvement of public health services. The opportunity to develop and present a proposal under the faculty’s guidance enhanced my confidence and competence in addressing public health issues.

Alonso Alejandro Hernandez Chavez, MD

OMI fellow from Mexico

Clinicians who treat patients every day should be invited to the table when decisions and policies are developed and made. They have insights that no policy makers have – connections with the individuals for whom the policies are made.

Cristina Celan, MPH

OMI fellow from Moldova

The seminar shaped my understanding of public health policy and truly inspired me. The task of changing policies cannot be completed in one day; it often takes years. Persistence will lead to success.

Khulan Bayaraa, MD

OMI fellow from Mongolia