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AUB’s First Summer School on Humanitarian Engineering discusses solutions for health problems in the region
7/11/2017
Dana Abed  |  Office of Advancement  |  media@aub.edu.lb  | 

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The First Summer School on Humanitarian Engineering at AUB was launched on Thursday, July 6, as a collaboration between the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (SFEA), the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS), and the Strategic Health Initiative (SHI). 

The school, which lasted through Saturday July 8, focused on solutions for health in conflict. This unique initiative will be a blend of instruction and ideation, in addition to an organized hackathon. 
 
The school aims to provide foundational knowledge in participatory and collaborative design to actors in the humanitarian field that have no formal training in the design of technologies. This is to familiarize participants with various social and engineering design methods to address humanitarian problems; to engage practitioners working in humanitarian settings as well as engineers/scientists in the process of designing technologies for health; to create teams of students, faculty, representatives of NGOs, and social entrepreneurs to generate solutions for health issues in conflict-affected populations; and to encourage the teams to progress beyond the summer school possibly towards a viable solution in the future.
 
The organizing committee was formed of Drs. Majdi Abou Najm, Zaher Dawy, Imad Elhajj, Aline Germani, Hala Ghattas, Samir Mustapha, Shadi Saleh, and Muhammad Zaman.
 
During the opening ceremony, Dr. Imad ElHajj, Associate Professor of SFEA and one of the organizers of the school, welcomed the speakers, the participants, and the guests. He noted that over 100 people registered officially to participate, exceeding all expectations.

“This is a testimony for your eagerness to do something good and have an impact, and this is really encouraging,” said ElHajj.  

Interim Dean of SFEA Alan Shihadeh highlighted the importance of design in bettering systems, and spoke of Engineering as an innovative way to find solutions for the problems from which the region suffers. 

“Engineers don’t have to be employed by the companies who are dropping bombs, they don’t have to be employed [by companies] at all, and that’s the reason we are organizing a hackathon,” said Shihadeh who highly encourages entrepreneurship and solution-oriented businesses. 
 
Representing the Dean of FHS Iman Nuwayhid, Dr. Rima Afifi highlighted the importance of interdisciplinary coordination when it comes to conflict resolution.  
 
“It may seems strange to many of you that the faculties of Engineering and Health Sciences work together, the reason that we do comes from our conviction that health is a complex phenomenon and determining it is way beyond biology,” said Afifi. “Our health status is a function of social, economic, political, and physical environment, […] there is no one discipline that has all the solutions for our complex problems today.”

Speaking on behalf on the Global Health Initiative, Associate Vice President for Health Affairs Shadi Saleh highlighted the importance of initiatives such as this. 
 
“The Global Health Initiative (GHI) was established to have different disciplines work together on various themes and our main theme is health and conflict resolution,” said Saleh. “For us, the GHI, as I am sure it is for SFEA and FHS, this is only the beginning of a path that will help establish this university, and you, as trail blazers when it comes to humanitarian responses.” 
 
Dr. Muhammad Zaman, Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Boston University, was one of the international speakers of the conference. During the opening ceremony, he expressed his excitement to be back in Beirut, and for such an event.  
 
“There is a tremendous responsibility that the university has in creating solutions, not only in analyzing problems, but also in thinking about solutions,” said Zaman. “We are in this as part of the human race and we have to do this with a sense of responsibility and opportunity at a time where we have intellectual tools at one of the premiere universities of the region.”
 
Speaking during the conference were Dr. Youseph Yazdi, Executive Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design; Dr. Hala Ghattas from the Center for Research on Population and Health at FHS; Aline Germani from the Center for Public Health Practice at FHS; among others. A hackathon was also organized, where participants were divided into teams, and had to think solutions for the ongoing problems of the region. The three-day conference was concluded by presentations from the various teams, discussing their developing projects with a judging committee.
Story Highlights
  • ​​The First Summer School on Humanitarian Engineering at AUB was launched on Thursday, July 6, as a collaboration between the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (SFEA), the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS), and the Strategic Health Initiative (SHI). 
  • The school, which lasted through Saturday July 8, focused on solutions for health in conflict. This unique initiative will be a blend of instruction and ideation, in addition to an organized hackathon.
 
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