The 2021 International Young Researchers’ Conference
On March 27-28, 2021, the 4th annual International Young Researchers Conference (IYRC) was held remotely via Zoom. The event featured nearly 80 high school student presenters from over 16 countries as well as renowned keynote speakers Lawrence Stanberry, MD, PhD, of Columbia University and Bogdan Chiva Giurca, MD, of Harvard University.
Since 2018, the IYRC has provided high school students with an avenue to engage with research in an ever-changing world and present breakthroughs with their peers and the wider community. The IYRC works to build an international network of driven students, mentors, and leaders in research and bridge the gap between coursework and community leadership. The IYRC aims to unite students with a passion for global health, integrate schools and local communities through education, research, and innovation, and help students understand the commitment to global health as a fundamental quality of liberty and equity.
This year’s Conference continued the IYRC’s mission with dozens of high school student presenters sharing their projects with nearly 150 participants from around the world over two days of presentations and discussions. The student presenters had researched various topics, created community projects and written health-based narratives. Examples of presentation include Eugenia Calvo’s (Hong Kong) “Analysis of Mask Avoidance Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic” and Ana Espinosa’s (Mexico) “Health Inequity in the United States: A Systematic Review of the Limitations of the Latino Community in Accessing Health Services.” Additional presentation can be found at: www.the-iyrc.org and Instagram: www.instagram.com/the.iyrc.
In a letter to the participants, the Conference Directors, Paul Lewis (Columbia University VP&S medical student and Students Global Health Organization co-president) and Elizabeth Feldeverd (Tokyo Academics educator) said “We truly admire how resilient our students have been, not only facing but overcoming such a challenging year while producing various research projects. This weekend we are celebrating our students’ perseverance and commitment to understanding the world through academic inquiry.”
This year’s keynote speakers were Dr. Lawrence Stanberry M.D., Ph.D. and Bogdan Chiva Giurca, MD. Dr. Lawrence Stanberry is the Associate Dean for International Programs and Co-director of the Programs in Global Health at Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. He serves as Columbia University’s Faculty Liaison for Pfizer Vaccine Research and Development. Dr. Bogdan Chiva Giurca is a doctor within the London, South Thames Foundation School, Global Alliance and Clinical Champion Lead at the National Academy for Social Prescribing, as well as a Collaborator for the Harvard Global Health Institute.
Lawrence Stanberry opened the IYRC on March 27 delivering a poignant talk on Neonatal Deaths Globally. He talked about the Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance Network (CHAMPS), care related risk factors that increase infection risk, and the Columbia University Pan-African Neonatal Care Assessment Survey (PANCAS). Students were highly engaged by Dr. Stanberry’s talk and asked dozens of questions about kangaroo care, cultural competency, the discrepancies of funds available for health care, and the impact of the pandemic on health care systems.
Dr. Bogdan Chiva Giurca opened the second day of the IYRC on March 28 delivering a motivating talk on global health, youth potential, and social prescribing. He talked about being a doctor, global health and policy making, his CV of failures, and advice for students. Students enjoyed his humility and asked questions about stigmatized conditions, promoting connection, challenges in different health context, and pursuing a medical career.
As a part of the Conference, the students were also able to conduct a case study analysis on the book The Art of Dying: Reviving Forgotten Wisdom by Lydia Dugdale, MD, Director of the Center for Clinical Medical Ethics in the Department of Medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.
The vision and goal of the IYRC is to increase research equity for high school students globally and to shift the paradigm to include voices who are otherwise excluded from traditional academic research by providing opportunities for publication and presentation. “We had many amazing projects this year that were able to cover diverse topics and communities. We are greatly impressed with the projects that all our students conducted. Their evidenced-based approaches to understanding the world around us accompanied by their well-documented reports captured the spirit of the IYRC,” said Directors Lewis and Feldeverd.
Mentorship is an important component of the IYRC and students have numerous opportunities to learn from older individuals through talks from physicians, workshops on conducting research, mock interviews, letters of recommendation, summer opportunities, connection to mentors, and meetings with Directors Paul Lewis or Elizabeth Feldeverd. Mr. Lewis conducts biweekly check-ins with interested students where they update him on the status of their projects and ask him any questions. He then provides feedback and suggestions, and help students create plans for next steps. Additionally, Mr. Lewis sends out a biweekly newsletter to students and a monthly newsletter to parents/guardians.
The IYRC has a special program called Vision Scholars in which students who participated in the program in a previous year can engage in a wide range of experiences with a close-knit group led by Mr. Lewis. These students learn about the planning stages of hosting a conference and act as liaisons between the students by hosting social and community building events. This year’s Vision Scholars are: Gawon Yoo, Onyinyechi Owo, Nithya Rao, Angelo Bravos, Hannah Pescaru, Chinedum Aguwa, Alyssa Tang, Meghan Koning, and Aleicia Zhu.
The 2021 IYRC was made possible through sponsorships and collaborations with Harvard College Japan Initiative (HCJI), Tokyo Academics, and Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (VP&S) Global Health Organization (GHO) and the Program for Education in Global and Population Health under the Department of Medical Education. The Conference was organized and co-directed by Paul Lewis and Elizabeth Feldeverd. Staff support was provided by: Francisco Gaddi, Jr., Soon Higashino, and Gawon Yoo. Additionally, special social programming was conducted by the Vision Scholars. Looking ahead, the IYRC organization hopes to expand its scope to empower more students to engage in research and improve their communities through projects.