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Preparing for PechaKucha

20 slides, 20 seconds, 20,000 beads of sweat

20 slides. 20 seconds each. 20,000 beads of sweat.
When I heard the 22nd Calgary PechaKucha was going to have the theme "Global", it was evident that GFF should be there to spread the word... Which we did and you can watch here on YouTube
PechaKucha means "chit chat" in Japanese. It started there, as a way for creative-types to discuss the projects they were doing. Now it has spread to over 700 cities world-wide.
Calgary is well-known for having a curious, cultured crowd. So how do we get them curious about GFF? Engaged with our projects? Passionate about our cause? PechaKucha will literally give us a platform.
The format is 20 slides, and you have 20 seconds to speak for each. No wiggle room. So the talk has to be succinct, precise, engaging. And quick. There will be eight speakers, some invariably amazing and some hopefully less expressive.
I was given the green-light a couple of months in advance. As Executive Director, I've "pitched" GFF often. Elevator pitches. Speeches at events: golf tournaments, the RichManPoorMan at the med school, the summer concerts in my backyard. But this is a real crowd. A real chance to share our story.
I started with my own story. What convinced me to found this organization? I've seen Family Medicine transform health systems firsthand in Laos and in East Africa. I know about the enhanced primary care mandate of organizations like WHO and the UN. I've seen how holistic and community-focused projects can improve health outcomes, improve patient's relationships with their health care team, and save money for government. But not everybody's convinced. What is the argument that will show them?
As luck would have it, Dr. Jia Hu was working temporarily at the PLC hospital alongside me over New Years. He is enrolled in a Public Health fellowship in Toronto, has worked for the UN in China, and is spending a year in London studying part-time at the London School of Economics and part-time at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (my own alma-mater). He graciously agreed to help with the talk. Jia's knowledge of health system reform was incredible! I learned so much from him, and will be proud to be sharing his wisdom (and pretending it's my own...).  He also told me that too many pictures of starving children in Africa are overdone, and my message is clear enough without those. So, less sad photos.
Running the story by GFF staff felt amazing. These are a team of dedicated volunteers, most of them not physicians, who work tirelessly for the cause. Describing how "vertical" approaches to health care aid have affected patients in Uganda, I could see the story hit hard. TB patients don't have funding for medications. HIV patients get TB treatment as part of aid. So, we have heard that some TB patients are actively seeking out HIV infection in order to survive. It breaks your heart; sometimes aid can have great intentions (and often great outcomes) but then there are unintentional consequences. Our approach is more "horizontal", in primary care.
Dr. Jennifer Hatfield is the Associate Dean of Global Health and International Partnerships at the Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary. She's has been my mentor for about six years, someone whose approach to relationship-building is unparalleled. When I made the pitch, her face pinched a bit. She explained to me that there is no need to describe the aid that "isn't working", that I was simplifying the story too much. In fact, the Canadian government's investment in Tanzania, where we had visited together a few times, is primary in health systems! But she agreed there is a lack of balance in investments in vertical and in horizontal approaches. The argument is that we need "more", rather than "or". So back to the keyboard.
My PechaKucha talk that some of you saw on February 20th, 2015 became more balanced thanks to my friends and mentors...  in the same way GFF is trying to balance out aid towards primary care in health systems and communities. It was informed by the great minds of the experts we are lucky to advise us. I hope it might entertain, engage, and bring more people on board to our cause.
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