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UKIC / International Center / A Meeting of the Minds: UK Interdisciplinary Team Wins Global Health Case Competition Proposing Solutions to Palliative Care

A Meeting of the Minds: UK Interdisciplinary Team Wins Global Health Case Competition Proposing Solutions to Palliative Care

Monday, February 19, 2018 | By Allison Cooper

Six students placed first in the fourth annual Global Health Case Competition (GHCC) on Saturday, Feb. 3 with their plan to improve palliative care issues in Papua New Guinea (PNG). The competition, hosted by the University of Kentucky’s (UK) International Center Global Health Initiative, encompassed both graduate and undergraduate students in 12 teams to address and propose solutions to real global health issues.

This year, the case involved addressing palliative care issues in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Teams could choose which country to focus their solutions on to develop innovative palliative care programs while integrating an appropriate use of opioids, a common treatment in palliative care. Opioid misuse is a current crisis in the United States as well as in Kentucky, so this component gave teams a chance to also deliberate an issue closer to home.

Teams presented their solutions to a panel of judges who are experts in fields related to the issue. The competition gives students a chance to develop key skills in presenting, public speaking, teamwork, and problem-solving.

Each team competing in GHCC was required to be interdisciplinary, encompassing students from at least three different colleges at UK. Slayer said the goal of the competition is to get students from different backgrounds to work together to solve the problem with multiple perspectives.

“It’s really for them to practice working with people who have different opinions and views as their own,” Slayer said, adding that the teams learn an appreciation for other professions.

Joy Coles, a current doctor of nursing practice student, was the captain of team 7 who placed second in this year’s competition. She said the competition is essentially a “meeting of the minds.” Coles said, “You get a collage that truly brings in different little elements and pieces, and when you bring them all together it works. Within hours of time you’ve got truly some viable options to fix some very complex problems.”

Anita Shanker, a second-year medical student, captained team 11 which placed first. Shanker described their proposed solution as ambitious. “We wanted to address all the issues pervading Papua New Guinea,” Shanker said. The team’s plan focused on cancer palliative care in Papua New Guinea (PNG) with plans to train local community health care workers to be able to provide personal care. The second tier of their plan involved the logistics of receiving care such as opioids and implementing a preventative HPV campaign. The plan also proposed a tax on the Beetle Nut – a type of nut that causes mouth cancer even though it is an important part of PNG’s culture.

Shanker said, “I think I’ve gained an increased fervor for global health. When you’re learning how to treat patients, sometimes you can forget what the end goal is. Participating in something like this renews that.”

Shanker’s team qualified to attend the Midwest Regional Global Health Conference at the University of Cincinnati on Feb. 24. Her team included:

  • Anita Shanker – Frankfort, KY. College of Medicine
  • Michael Sackett – Lexington, KY. College of Business and Economics
  • Austin Eirk – Louisville, KY. College of Medicine
  • Yuxi Zhang – Shanghai, China. College of Medicine
  • Hannah Thomas – Nashville, TN. College of Arts and Sciences
  • Parisa Shamaei Zadeh – Paintsville, KY. College of Arts and Sciences


Other teams included:

  • Second Place – Team 7
  • Joy Coles – College of Nursing
  • Patrick Keller – College of Medicine
  • Kussainova Gaukhar – College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment
  • Raichur Prachi – College of Arts and Science
  • Siddiqi Hussain – College of Medicine


Third Place – Team 9

  • Ethan Cardwell – College of Public Health
  • Brittany Auvil – College of Arts and Sciences
  • Johnathan Handshoe – College of Medicine
  • Lidya Yatin – College of Arts and Sciences


All teams were advised by mentors from UK faculty and local community members a day before the competition on the team workday. Each team met with one content expert and one cultural expert. Mentors included Dr. Laura Fanucchi, assistant professor in the College of Medicine, University of Kentucky; Dr. Hsain Ilahiane, associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, University of Kentucky; Dr.Jessica McFarlin, division chief of Palliative and Support Care, UK Healthcare;  Dr. Alissa Karr, pharmacist clinical staff, UK Healthcare. Dr. Gerald V. Klim, director of Adult Palliative Care and Hospice, UK Healthcare. Dr. Doug Oyler, Trauma/Emergency General Surgery and Critical Care, UK Chandler Medical Center; Dr. Beth Goldstein, Associate Professor and Department Chair, College of Education, Univeristy of Kentucky; Dr. Micheal Reed, director of the International Programs for Agriculture,  – College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment, University of Kentucky; Amy Glasscock, member of the Peace Corps in Indonesia; Will Glasscock, member of the Peace Corps in Indonesia.

The UK teams were evaluated by judges Dr. Laila Akhlaghi, senior technical advisor at John Snow, Inc.; Drs. Dorothy Brockopp, professor in the College of Nursing, University of Kentucky; Todd Coté, chief medical officer at Hospice of the Bluegrass, Inc.; Tara Loyd, co-chief executive officer of PIVOT; Dr. Joseph O’Neill, clinical fellow in the Hospice and Palliative Medicine, John Hopkins School of Medicine; Dr. F. Douglas Scutchfield, Peter P Bosomworth Professor of Health Services Research and Policy College of Public Health and Medicine.