Candler School of Theology has offered me many opportunities to develop as a pastor. One of the most formative experiences has been participating in the Emory Global Health Case Competition. The event, which is funded in part by Candler’s student government the Candler Coordinating Council and other graduate school’s student governments, brings together students from the entire university to compete on teams to propose solutions to a current global health issue. In one competition we proposed training community health workers and providing farmers subsidies in order to bring relief to the economic and health burdens of tobacco use and production in Gujarat India. In the other competition we proposed funding food trucks with health food options, community/school gardens, and building capacity around an existing maternal health program to address the issues of childhood obesity in Mexico. The problems were complex and the teams competing to propose the best solutions found out that solutions were even more complex.
Though neither team that I competed with won the competitions, a few Candler students have been on winning teams and earned the cash prize offered. Though I am a competitive person this was truly a time when the experience was worth the time investment required to participate. The interdisciplinary teams were composed of colleagues from the graduate programs in business, law, public health, development practices, theology, medicine, and nursing as well as the college of arts and sciences . I was randomly assigned to a team in my first competition and was part of a intentionally formed team in my second go round. In each competition we received the case and background information on a Monday and had until Saturday morning to research, brainstorm, and put together a professional proposal. On Saturday morning the teams competed against each other with expert judges deciding on the best presentation and navigation of questions following.
In this experience I had my global perspective broadened. I was able to think about and research how faith based organizations around the world were addressing the issues of people living on the margins. As a theology student on the team it was often my role to consider people’s responses to programs based on their faith commitments and the overall ethical foundations of our proposed solutions. Even more importantly I learned how to better communicate with people who have different ways of seeing and interpreting the world. We all had a different way of talking about justice and health and had to either find a common language or learn each other’s languages in order to effectively communicate our ideas to one another. I believe this will be an amazing tool for me in the local church as a pastor who believes we should be engaged with community health issues. Empowering a congregation full of doctors, lawyers, nurses, business women and men, etc. will require knowing how to effectively translate theological themes that inform our involvement, effectively hear what other disciplines have to offer, and then translating that for other members of the congregation who have different vocations all together.
Candler is fertile ground to grow as a student of life and especially as a pastor. The Global Health Case competition will be one of the things I miss the most about my time at Candler. There are many other ways to get involved in community health at Candler. One could do a dual degree with the public health or development programs, go on a trip half way around the world with organizations like International Relief and Development, take courses that introduce the intersection of faith and health, get involved with the Religion and Public Health Collaborative or Interfaith Health Program, or make friends with like minded people from one of the other 6 graduate schools at Emory. If you are interested in how the church can be involved with community health, then Candler is the school for you.
- Patrick McLaughlin
Patrick is a third year United Methodist MDiv student from Kansas, a member of the Candler Singers, and a Student Ambassador.