SFU team wins top prize at Oxford Global Challenge with solutions to reduce medical waste

An interdisciplinary team of SFU undergraduates has won first place overall in The Oxford Global Challenge, an international competition for students to explore and present ideas around social and environmental change. The global finals of the competition took place in Oxford, UK, on Apr. 30 and May 1, 2017.

The SFU team, comprising Alec Yu and Iman Baharmand, students at the Faculty of Science, and Kimberley Venn, studying at the Beedie School of Business, overcame competition from 14 other teams from five continents to take the victory.

The team comes away with prizes worth over $5,000, and invitations to return to the Skoll Centre at the University of Oxford to take part in two major social entrepreneurship conferences in the next year.

The team met in SFU’s Health Change Lab program, an interdisciplinary collaboration between the university’s Beedie School of Business and Faculty of Health Science, which tasks students with finding potential solutions for key community health issues, while learning from and being mentored by community stakeholders.

“The three of us first got to work together through Change Lab, and our project for the Global Challenge is truly a product of program’s interdisciplinary approach,” says Iman Baharmand. “Each week, we were challenged to explore different perspectives and encouraged to develop a broad range of skills from a variety of disciplines. We learned the fundamentals of making social change happen and got to meet some incredible students and community members in the process.”

At the Global Challenge competition in Oxford, the SFU team presented their research on medical waste. They highlighted the prevalence of single-use implements and overstocking in hospitals, the social and environmental impact of the waste this creates, highlights of global approaches to solutions, and suggested interventions to tackle the issue here in Canada.

“We decided to tackle our problem from a broad, issue-centric direction, as opposed to trying to find solutions that would make for a good start-up,” explains Alex Yu. “This allowed us to meet so many different people, from doctors to nurses to purchasers, who believed in what we were doing and generously offered their support.”

Read more about the students' reaction to their win with this article.