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News: Next Generation One Health Philippines Fellows Co-Learn at their First-Ever In-Person Event in Manila

| February 20, 2023

The Next Generation One Health Philippines (NGOHP)  conducted its first-ever in-person event on January 12-15, 2023 at the Luxent Hotel, Quezon City. NGOHP is one of the flagship projects of the Planetary and Global Health Program (PGHP) of the St. Luke’s Medical Center College of Medicine – William H. Quasha Memorial (SLMCCM-WHQM) with support from the International Alliance against Health Risks in Wildlife Trade.

The fellows with Dr. Susan Pelea Nagtalon and Dr. Renzo Guinto.

After weeks of participating in online activities including an introductory course on One Health, the fifteen NGOHP fellows hailing from diverse disciplines and different parts of the country met for the first time in person to learn together from experts and from each other on different topics such as leadership, teamwork, advocacy, and communication, and also to incubate their team-based research projects for the year. 

The fellows hone their leadership and teamwork with various activities throughout the event.

During the first day, the fellows were welcomed by Dr. Susan Pelea Nagtalon, Dean and Chief Academic Officer of the SLMCCM-WHQM, and Dr. Renzo Guinto, Director of the NGOHP and of the St. Luke’s Planetary and Global Health Program. “Man has not been kind to the environment. That is why the pandemic struck and caused a lot of economic and psychological issues. And this we do not want to happen again,” remarked Dean Susan as she emphasized the importance of the environment on human health. The fellows also reflected on their learnings from the online course and participated in a “speed dating” exercise which enabled them to learn about each others’ backgrounds, expertise, and research interests.

Howie Severino shares his experiences as a journalist and finding joy in service to others.

The second day of the workshop was spent honing leadership skills and teamwork through various activities facilitated by Dr. Guinto. In the afternoon, the participants engaged in a deep conversation on the importance of effective communication with veteran journalist Howie Severino, and on advocacy and courage with environmental activist Rodne Galicha. 

Rodne Galicha recounts moments in his life that strengthened his advocacy for the environment.

During the “talk show-style” session, Mr. Severino tells the fellows that service does not need to be a burden, saying: “We find joy in giving service to others. Not because we feel it’s an obligation or a challenge, but because it makes us happy.” Mr. Galicha, meanwhile, highlights the interconnected and transdisciplinary nature of One Health. “At the end of the day, we are united in our advocacy and our desire to save the planet and serve the people.”

Mikael Francisco, co-founder and editor-in-chief of FlipScience, conducts a workshop on podcast interviewing. 

The third day of the workshop focused on communication skills through three parallel workshops on podcast interviewing (facilitated by Mikael Francisco, co-founder of FlipScience), op-ed writing (facilitated by Timothy James Dimacali, Founding Editor of GMA News Online Science and Technology Section), and moderating and paneling (facilitated by Dr. Renzo Guinto). These sessions reinforced the importance of effectively communicating research findings to policymakers and the general public, especially in this era of “infodemics” or epidemics of mis/disinformation.

The fellows refine their research ideas and prepare a project timeline with the guidance of their mentors.

Throughout the workshop, fellows were expected to incubate research project ideas that focus on the nexus of wildlife trade and zoonotic spillover prevention. The three teams, each composed of five fellows from different disciplines but with shared topics of interest, will be implementing the research projects supported by small grants for the duration of ten months. The teams developed project proposals with the guidance of invited mentors – Prof. Philip Alviola, Associate Professor, Institute of Biological Sciences, University of the Philippines – Los Baños; Dr. Ronald Cruz, Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Ateneo de Manila University; and Dr. John Aruta, former Senior Lecturer, Sunway University in Malaysia. 

The final day of the workshop culminated with research proposal presentations. The titles of the three research projects are as follows: 

  • A critical look into the existing policies on preventing zoonotic risks from illegal wildlife trade in the Philippines
  • Exploration of Perspectives, Experiences, and Visions of Local Stakeholders on the One Health Approach and Issues in Selected Wildlife Hotspots in the Philippines
  • Local One Health Index (LOHI): Developing a Transdisciplinary Tool to Assess the One Health Performance of the Philippines

The NGOHP fellows and members of the St. Luke’s PGHP team made their personal commitments and joined the “One Health Bangka”.

The workshop ended with a ceremony where the NGOHP fellows and the St. Luke’s PGHP team made their personal pledges and joined the “One Health Bangka.” “In One Health, we are becoming good ancestors to the future generations,” said Dr. Guinto.

The fellows will be conducting their research projects until November 2023, culminating with a One Health Forum where they will be presenting their research findings to diverse stakeholders to influence One Health policy and practice in the country.

Highlights of the workshop can be found on the NGOHP Youtube channel.

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