Coordinating Between Groups
The event simulated the progression of a high-mortality strain of influenza that quickly spread to the United States after originating in Vietnam.
Over the course of the day, faculty provided students with periodic scripted updates on the flu’s spread. With each update, students assessed the disease’s causes and transmission, coordinated within and across international agencies, and formulated policy responses.
Students had been preparing for the event and studying the 1918 and more recent pandemics since September, but the dual task of creating policy while coordinating between groups still proved challenging.
“The hardest thing was finding out what was needed from each level of response,” said Amy Meng (C’18), a biology of global health major. “Another challenge was the ability to make and ask for concessions from other teams and work out agreements.”
Presenting to Experts
Following each progression of the simulation, students presented their findings and recommendations to a panel of real-world professionals, including School of Foreign Service Dean Joel Hellman and former chief of staff to Nancy Pelosi, John Lawrence.
Dr. Phillip Nguyen, author of the simulation and instructor in the Department of Family Medicine at the Georgetown Medical Center, said:
“One of the goals at the end of the day is teaching them how to approach complex issues.”
“I was surprised at the speed at which they realized the logical fallacies and picked up on what was missing," Nguyen added. "I think this comes from their background in the 1918 flu and skills they already had. We did our best to trick them.”
“Let’s hope the ‘big one’ doesn’t happen soon, but when it does, these students will be able to help the world respond more effectively” said Stoto.