PHTT Reflections: Past Participant Interview I

Public Health Think Tank 2018 applications go live in less than a week! We reached out to a participant from last year’s conference to hear about her experience with PHTT, which you can read below.


Please briefly introduce yourself (name, university/major, current job, academic/professional interests… etc)

My name is Denat E Negatu and I am an economics major at New York University Abu Dhabi. While I am still undecided about which career path I want to pursue, I have an interest in public health and education.


What was the topic of the conference that you participated in? What was the intervention that you and your team proposed?

My team and I participated in the 2017 Public Health Think Tank with the topic of oral and dental health in the UAE. The challenge was to propose a public health intervention that would decrease tooth decay in children in the UAE. After two days of work together, brainstorming and designing the intervention, my team and I proposed a mobile game that is linked to an electronic tooth brush to record and encourage young children to brush their teeth twice a day for 2 minutes.


Why did you decide to participate in PHTT? How was your experience in it (memories, impressions, impact, benefits)?

Initially, I decided to participate in PHTT to explore the role of public health and to learn the challenges, benefits and dynamics that are involved in drafting policies with fellow students from around the UAE. After the two-day conference that involved skill-building workshops, critical thinking, and interaction with public health experts, not only did I gain a hands-on experience in studying a public health issue and devising an intervention, but I also got the opportunity to work with a team of a diverse background.

During the conference, I had the opportunity to work with students who were Syrian, half Emirati and half South African, Somalian, and Lebanese. Initially, it was intimidating as we were strangers, both personally and culturally, but we were expected to work together to propose a public health intervention for a health concern. However, in less than an hour, we were throwing ideas on the table, discussing shortcomings and expectations and making jokes here and there. By the end of the first day, we had become close enough that we stayed for extra hours than required discussing our intervention. Working with my team taught me the significance of tolerance, listening, and most importantly respect and understanding of differences. One of our teammates, who was very quiet for most of the two days– she proposed a key component to our proposal, which I dare say, gave life to our intervention. This showed me that everyone always has something unique to contribute and that listening with the intent to understand not only to respond is important in team work.

Last but not least, the time constraint of the conference forced us to use our time very efficiently and be able to propose a public health intervention in less than two days. It was an amazing experience that helped me, personally, learn to work under pressure. Working with students I met only a day before under time pressure is one of the best experiences I had so far as a university student.


What advice would you give to the PHTT 2018 participants?

One advice I can give for upcoming participants is to be open to entertain different opinions and ideas. Other than that, be ready to push your limits just a little further during the Think Tank. Good Luck!