A vital concept


The podium stands empty. The 2016 Hammond Rotary World Affairs Conference took place on Dec. 11 at Purdue Calumet.

Shannon Hearne

Contagious viruses are active year-round, and so are discussions involving them. On Dec. 11, students were invited to the annual Rotary International District 6540 World Affairs Conference at Purdue University Calumet to discuss topics dealing with the containment and eradication of various diseases. Last year, students discussed human trafficking, largely contrasting this year’s topic of global health.

“[This year is] my third year coming to the conference. [I started going when] Mr. [Thomas] Clark, [Social Studies,] brought it up to me. He said, ‘Hey Rog, there is this conference at Purdue, this World Affairs Conference. I think you would really enjoy it.’ I was skeptical [at first], but I gave it a shot. I keep coming back [so that says a lot]. [This year I am most looking forward to] the discussions we have. When you get a really interactive group it really is an experience,” Roger Kaufman (12) said.

Alongside Kaufman, students in attendance included Isaiah Billot (12), Sarah Bredar (12), Jovana Dodevska (12), Rachel Eder (10), Gabriella Harrell (9), Shannon Hearne (12), Mohammed Hijaz (11), James Juscik (12), Natalia Kuzbiel (12), Dasia Lockett (11), Sarah Mapes (9), Caitlin Mavity (10), Sean Meyer (12), Maria Moricz (12), Jeccika Scialabba (12), Niji Shah (12), Lauren Wisniewski (10), Chris Zeheralis (12) and Jakob Delich (10). When speakers allowed students to contribute to the discussion, Scialabba was the first student who spoke at the conference.

“I feel like more people were paying attention to me [when I spoke at the conference]. I feel like I got my point out and across clearly. I feel like I had everyone’s attention and that they were all excited to hear what I had to say,” Scialabba said.

Upon arrival, a short welcome was announced. Shortly after, Mr. Andrew Pettee discussed programs offered at Purdue and promoted the college to students in attendance. Following, Mr. Nicholas Loxas, President of the Hammond Rotary, gave a speech to inform students what an honor it was to put together this program for them.  Dr. Gerri Browning, Health Officer in the City of East Chicago, MC’d the event. Mr. Browning quickly introduced Dr. Alexander Stemer of Franciscan Medical Specialists, who was the keynote speaker for the event.

Mr. Stemer discussed eradicating infectious diseases. He explained that the last 35 years have been challenging, thanks to the HIV epidemic in ‘80, the Hantavirus in ‘93, Cyclosporiasis from raspberries in ‘95, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease,  the West Nile Virus, the Chinese H5N1 epidemic [Bird Flu], the Anthrax attacks in 2001, SARS from China in 2003 and now an interesting problem of an infection that we get through health care: Clostridium Difficile, which occurs after you get antibiotics.

While many infectious and communicable diseases were addressed by all of the speakers at the event, one speaker stood out amongst the rest having had battled a contagious viral illness as a child. Mr. Jim Jeslnick, Rotarian and Polio survivor, brought a human voice to Polio.

“I thought that Jim’s speech was very touching. It inspired the officers of Interact [Club] to plan a fundraiser for Polio that will be coming in the near future,” Dodevska said.

After Mr. Jeslnick’s speech, students took a short lunch break. Following, Mr. Dave McCormick, Director of the Immunization Division at the Indiana State Department of Health addressed the audience. He explained that 400 children every day die from measles, the amount of students present in the room. Mr. McCormick went on to explain that one half of the countries don’t vaccinate against pneumonia, which is the number one killer for children under the age of five as far as a vaccine preventable diseases. This was, however, not a simply lecture. A solution was offered: we could have better immunization systems. The goal of having an immunization system is to ensure that every eligible person is receiving their vaccine, that they are receiving all of the recommended vaccines and that they are receiving vaccines by trained vaccinators.

While some students may be new to this educational program, Mr. Clark has been taking students to this event for over eight years.

“I think [the program] is extremely educational and it gets students involved with students from other schools. I think that it is awesome that it brings students together in a common learning environment. This year’s topic was one of the best topics they have ever had. It is something that you see worldwide. They do a great job of covering the most relevant topics,” Mr. Clark said.