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Letter to the Editor

In early February, The White House released a press statement about aggressive efforts to combat Zika, a mosquito-borne virus linked to birth defects and other negative health outcomes. The White House tasked its health and diplomatic agencies to respond to this outbreak and continue to develop strategies to prevent such outbreaks in the future. When the Ebola outbreak hit in 2014, these same agencies put out a wide call to the public for innovative solutions to address key challenges. Students at Duke participated in the response through the Duke Ebola Innovation Challenge and many other significant projects and research.

Zika is just one of many threats we will face in our lifetime. As a university, we have a role to contribute brains and talent to tackle global challenges; in fact, many faculty at Duke are doing just that with Zika. Dr. Sallie Permar, director of Laboratory of Neonatal Viral Pathogen Immunity at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute, is studying mother-to-child transmission of neonatal viral pathogens like Zika. Jeff Moe, faculty at the Duke Global Health Institute, has developed a proposal to align and incentivize stakeholders to accelerate the pharmaceutical response to outbreaks such as Zika.

In addition to great faculty work, students represent the next generation of problem-solvers and professionals who will bring innovative solutions to global challenges – and idea generation and implementation take practice. In our classes we learn about frameworks and theories, which help us to ask the right questions and take a rigorous approach. If we are to succeed as the next generation of problem-solvers, we as a student body need to continue to seize more opportunities outside of the classroom to work in diverse teams and learn to productively work across disciplines.

One great opportunity to get out of the classroom and collaborate across sectors is Duke’s Zika Innovation Challenge, which will bring together diverse teams of students to develop actionable solutions to address Zika. Oftentimes we feel like we cannot contribute to finding solutions to the world’s problems if we’re not experts in the fields. But bringing a fresh set of eyes and out of the box ideas are sometimes exactly what is needed to find new solutions that work. Bring your fresh perspective to the Zika Innovation Challenge; it might be exactly what is needed to help solve challenges now or in the future.

Find out more online and register by March 14th; the Challenge kicks off on March 22nd.

Karishma Popli, Trinity ‘16

Kunal Potnis, Trinity ‘17

Social Entrepreneurship at Duke Student Advisory Committee


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