By Kira-Leigh Kuhnert

“We are going to Stanford!” the South Africa-based Digital Medic team exclaimed with excitement as we got news, at the 11th hour, that one of our colleague’s visa application to the USA was approved. This is one of the few challenges of being part of a global team based in two countries.

The Digital Medic South Africa Office

Global collaboration is core to Digital Medic’s mission, and is lived on a daily basis as we work across 9 time zones in two locations: one in the global north on the Stanford campus, and another in the global south in Cape Town, South Africa.

Google Maps - Cape Town to Stanford
Cape Town to Stanford, courtesy of Google Maps.

The South Africa office was established in 2017 to allow us to facilitate south-to-south collaborations on the African continent and accomplish true community-engaged work.  This Fall (or autumn as we know it) was the first time Digital Medic met as a full team at Stanford for its annual retreat. To be able to convene in person and connect in 3D high definition (and I am not referring to the computer screen that we usually communicate through weekly) has added depth to our team and our work.  While technology enables teams to be global, there is nothing that can replace the face-to-face time with a person to connect on a deeper level. 

Team Retreat 2019

 The week’s agenda was packed full of faculty advisory committee meetings; engaging with colleagues in the School of Medicine and the Vice Provost for Technology and Learning; painting pumpkins while sipping on apple cider; and soaking up some of the delights of campus and San Francisco.

Golden Gate bridge hike in San Francisco.

For the South Africa team, a highlight was the time spent with fellow colleagues reflecting on and envisioning the further impact of Digital Medic during a full day strategy session.

Brainstorming with post-it notes
It all starts with a post-it note.

While we may not have resolved all our big questions – or found world peace – there was a collective fervour for our mission to create high-need evidence-based health information that is designed to be relatable, engaging, and can scale quickly and cost effectively.  We set goals, we reflected, and we shared our hopes and dreams for this next year. And we did it together.  

Digital Medic Team Retreat
Strategic planning in action.

Being back home, I am reminded of the growing need for, and importance of the health education content that we are creating. I realize the critical role that the DM South Africa team plays in bridging the excellence of Stanford in health education and research with the communities we are working with collaboratively. I am grateful to be part of this global team who values human centered design and is ready to grapple with the implementation of this approach.