19. august 2019

From Thule Air Base to Gala Dinner at D’Angleterre

Artic health

Internationalisation in education creates unique opportunities for students. Global health student, Alina Aiesha Khan, recognised for her work on arctic health issues in the US military.

Dundas mountain near Thule Air Base.
Dundas mountain near Thule Air Base. Foto: Alina Aiesha Khan

When global health student, Alina Aiesha Khan, from University of Copenhagen decided to do the research for her bachelor project in Arctic health issues in the US military together with the hospital at Thule Air Base, she did not expect to gain further recognition. Impressed by the work she did, the American authorities at the base decided not only to sponsor her stay but also to implement her health intervention at the clinic. Last week on Thursday the 15th of August, Alina and 400 other prominent Danes attended the Danes Worldwide gala dinner at Hotel D’Angleterre, celebrating the organisation’s 100-year anniversary.

Alina is about to start her MSc in Global Health, after completing a BSc in Nursing from UCL University College. She has always had an international outlook during her studies and knew from the very beginning that pursuing international opportunities would create a stronger career profile in the end.

The government and our educational institutions often talk about the importance of internationalisation in education. And this is with good reason. The more international experience students have and the better they are connected internationally; the stronger influence Denmark will have in international cooperation. Alina’s story is a good example of how internationalisation in education not only creates unique opportunities on the individual level but also how an institution like the US military can benefit from student innovation and interventions.

Creating better health at Thule Air Base

An American Air Force base in Nord West Greenland might not be the most obvious bachelor project choice. But Alina likes to think outside the box and wanted to do a project that potentially could have an impact. After some opportunity scouting, she contacted the clinic director at the hospital at Thule Air Base and began a six months research collaboration. Alina is one of the first students to collaborate with the hospital and things were not always that easy due to the fact that it is situated at a military base with special regulations and rules.

For 2 weeks, Alina lived and worked at the base, which was created in the 1950s during the Cold War as a top-secret project. Some of the world’s highest wind speeds have been measured at Thule Air Base (333 km/t) and temperatures can drop to more than -40 degrees Celsius. Half of the year it is eternal night; the other half eternal day. Not following the local rules for behaviour outdoors can easily result in serious health problems and life danger.

”The overall aim of my project was to design an intervention that would decrease the admissions at the medical clinic due to arctic health issues. This could for example be frostbites, harm caused by arctic animals, mental health issues caused by the extreme light conditions or complications from malnutrition. We developed a brochure addressing the many precautions you need to take when visiting the base as a first-timer and in the end, we succeeded in bringing down the clinic admissions. Now the Americans are implementing the brochure for all visitors,” Alina explains.

Thule Air Base_creating better health
Alina Aiesha Khan at Thule Air Base. Foto: Alina Aiesha Khan

Gala Dinner with Margrethe Vestager

How often do you get a letter inviting you to dinner with Her Royal Majesty The Queen herself? Not many students get this opportunity but as an active member of Danes Worldwide’s student network, Alina received the invitation to participate in their gala dinner, celebrating Danes who makes a difference when going abroad. Although Alina did not get to meet the queen, as she unfortunately had to cancel, Alina got to meet another important Margrethe: The European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager.

Alina Aiesha Khan and Margrethe Vestager at the Danes Worldwide gala dinner
Alina Aiesha Khan and Margrethe Vestager at the Danes Worldwide gala dinner. Foto: Alina Aiesha Khan

Margrethe Vestager was especially invited to the gala dinner to receive the award for this year’s World Dane and Alina had a brief chat with her at the event. 

”It was inspiring to be in the same room with so many prominent people. Not only famous people like politicians, actors and other officials but also just ordinary Danes like myself who in so many different ways have contributed positively to Denmark’s reputation abroad. As Margrethe Vestager also said in her thank-you speech, we Danes have many positive values and traditions we can bring with us when we travel out into the world and meet other people. We should always be good at using each other’s differences and resources – and that is only possible if you remain open to the world and are not afraid to venture out into it. Also, if you are ’just’ a student”, says Alina.

Alina is thankful for the opportunities given to her through her international experiences during her studies. During her bachelor studies she took part of the international collaborative project ”Family crises - an evidence-based nursing practice” and she went on a combined internship/university stay at The National Health Service in Leeds, England.

”My international experiences during my studies have defiantly made me more adaptable, heightened my ability to collaborate across professions and sectors, and made me more emphatic. In England, I taught them about the Danish health care system, which also improved my language skills a lot. Now I can work in an international setting and are able to communicate professionally in English.”