Student Blog | 5 Take-aways from “Global Health Diplomacy”

Panelists discuss Global Health Diplomacy at the Tower Center Oct. 18.

The Tower Center hosted the panel discussion “Global Health Diplomacy” Oct. 18 featuring the former President of Nigeria H. E. Olusegun Obasanjo, Bishop Sunday Onuoha, the founder and president of Vision Africa, Fiemu Nwarkiaku, associate dean at UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Office of Global Health, and Eric Bing, professor of global health at SMU.

The panel, moderated by Frank Roby, a Gallagher Healthcare Practice Leader, discussed the state of Nigeria healthcare, past, present, and future, and how healthcare problems in developing nations can impact the rest of the world. They also spoke about the U.S.’s past interactions with developing healthcare in Africa, and how recent political choices, like the cutting of funding for various programs, will impact the African continent and the international community.

Here are my five take-aways from the panel:

1. Nigeria’s Success has Old Foundations

Healthcare and educational foundations built by missionaries combined with the country’s willingness to admit to health-related problems have helped Nigeria to lead Sub-Saharan Africa in healthcare.

2. The Importance of Interfaith

Interfaith approaches are of paramount importance for successful African healthcare; in communities where religious institutions are one of the greatest ways to positively impact the community, building a healthcare solution with only the input of one segment of the religious society can lead to disaster for everyone.

3. Technology Brings Hope

Improving technology is one of the greatest causes for hope. Machines that allow for more mobility, like drones, and tech that makes medical professionals more efficient are helping to increase not only the level of care that can be provided, but also the speed at which it can be administered.

4. Helping Africa Helps Everyone

Assistance from the international community is not only incredibly helpful, it is in the best interest of those countries that send the help. Diseases that start epidemics in Africa don’t care about the nationality of whom they infect, so it makes sense for countries to help solve healthcare problems in Africa as soon as they’re an issue, instead of letting them spread to other regions.

5. How to Make Assistance Effective

International assistance is generally the most successful if it starts by focusing on one problem and then expands its focus as it becomes necessary to better provide for the community. Programs should be open to primary healthcare by any and all members of the community that can provide it, and should focus on the long-term goal of improving Nigeria’s facilities so that all Nigerian citizens can be comfortable staying in country for their health needs.


Destiny Rose Murphy is a junior at SMU triple majoring in political science, English, and philosophy, as well as minoring in Human Rights and Public Policy and International Affairs. She is a Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar.

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Scholar Spotlight | What I learned visiting prisons in the Deep South

Nine days, seven states, eight hotels. Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar Grace Caputo, class of 2017, traveled with the Embrey Human Rights Program to tour death row prisons across the Deep South in August. She now has an internship with the Meadows Foundation Health Policy Institute. Caputo is majoring in political science and human rights, and minoring in law and legal reasoning; she will graduate from SMU in December. The Tower Center sat down to talk with her about the tour and internship.


HCM Tower Scholar poses with John Thompson, a member of Witness to Innocence. Thompson served 18 years in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, 14 of which were on death row, before he was exonerated. Thompson died of a heart attack earlier this month.

Tell us about your experience on the death row tour.

It was pretty exhausting because every night we had to move. What was cool though, is that we got to work with Witness to Innocence, an organization of death row exonerees. In each state, even if we didn’t get to see the prison facilities, we talked to someone who was on death row in that state. We also went to different law firms that work on prison conditions and with inmates on death row who can’t afford counsel. It was a really eye-opening experience. I had never been in a prison before; like most people I had no reason to be going to a prison.

What was it like to be in a prison?

It was interesting to see how the prisoners lived — most of the prisons are not air-conditioned, which was really crazy. I was sweating; I couldn’t imagine being in that environment for an extended period of time. It opened my eyes to a lot of the corruption that goes on in the trials, and how the prison system is more for profit than rehabilitation, which I didn’t know much about. A lot of the Witness to Innocence people had similar stories. They either had really bad public defenders or they had prosecutors that withheld evidence or did other crazy things. I didn’t know it was that bad.

What was it like to talk to people who were once on death row?

Some of them have come back from it and are really happy with what they are doing; they’ve moved on. Others, you can see it’s taken a toll on them. It was sad to see. If you take away years of someone’s life, and they live in those conditions for something they didn’t do, it’s sad to see how they come out. Some are depressed, or smoking all the time; one man had trouble walking and used a cane. They were young when it happened — they lost their young adult years, which was sad to see.

Why did you decide to have this experience?

Since coming to SMU I have changed my view on the death penalty; now I’m really against it. Before college, I thought I could understand why in some cases it might be an acceptable punishment. The human rights program opened my eyes, moral arguments aside, to the inconsistencies and biases in the system, and to how inhumane it is.
I thought the trip would be interesting. I think prisons are interesting in general because they’re full of the people no one thinks about. People think, “Who cares? They committed this crime so it doesn’t matter how they’re treated.” I’m hoping to at least do pro bono work with this issue after law school so I wanted to see it for myself.

The driving entrance to Louisiana State Penitentiary.

What struck you the most while you were on the tour?

When I went to Angola (Louisiana State Penitentiary) it was like modern-day slavery. They make the inmates work for the first three years in the fields. Unlike other prisons we visited, at Angola I noticed right away that most of the prisoners were African American. They were doing field work and the officers were on horses with huge guns — it looked like slavery. They work eight hours a day and are not paid the first three years.

I never thought about inmates getting paid for their work, but these prisoners are making our license plates, in Texas they make our car tags, and they make highway signs. I think it’s important they get some kind of compensation.

Tell us about your internship.

I am working at the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, and specifically I am working on the Caruth Justice Project, which works within Texas jails to improve mental health both before inmates arrive in jail and once they’re there. We are pushing to have a mental health expert on call for 9-1-1 suicide calls. Also, if the 9-1-1 call requires officers to go to the site, we want them to be accompanied by that mental health expert to ensure people are treated in the most beneficial way for their health.

The second part of the project is reducing wait times for mental health evaluations. Before defendants can stand trial, they are required to have an evaluation, so some people wait longer in jail for the evaluation than they would have been if found guilty of the crime. We want to raise grant funding for data collaboration so that records are kept and shared if people have already been evaluated.

How do you plan to use these experiences after college? Would you recommend the death row tour to others?

I want to take this knowledge with me to law school and figure out what I want to do; maybe go into this field or do pro bono work. I want to incorporate this experience into my lifestyle and career.

I would recommend this trip to other people because it is a unique experience that you wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to do. It deals with our most basic human right: the right to life. In addition, it is worthwhile to be able to see first-hand the prison system, especially because the U.S. has the one of the highest numbers of  incarcerated people in the world. Whatever side of the political spectrum you’re on its important to be as informed as possible.

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Event Recap | The North Korean Missile Threat

Daryl G. Kimball. executive director of the Arms Control Association, presents “The North Korean Missile Crisis” at the Tower Center Oct. 12.

President Trump threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” in a speech at the United Nations Sept. 19. Sen. Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, responded that this rhetoric could lead the United States to World War III.

Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, visited the Tower Center to present his lecture “The North Korean Missile Threat” Oct. 12. Kimball argues that tensions are as high as they were in October 1962 — the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Though North Korea has been a nuclear state for roughly three decades now, the rate of missile testing has increased exponentially under the regime of Kim Jong-un, who became Supreme Leader of North Korea after his father’s death in 2011. President Trump inherited this missile crisis when he took office in January, Kimball argues, but his administration, and specifically his tweets, have only increased the risk of conflict and worsened the relationship between the United States and North Korea.

The Trump administration’s strategy toward North Korea has been “maximum pressure and engagement.” Kimball believes that yes, the pressure has been applied, but in the form of empty threats and without the balancing act of engagement.

The North Korean threat 

As of now, after several tests of the Hwasong-12 missile, we know North Korea has the capability to strike South Korea, parts of Japan, and the U.S. island territory of Guam with a nuclear-tipped short to medium ranged missile. North Korea also tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the first time in July, the Hwasong-14, which would theoretically make Western U.S. cities like Seattle and Los Angeles potential targets, but analysts disagree on the missile’s exact range. If North Korea continues to test, Kimball claims they could have the capability to confidently strike the continental U.S. within one to two years.

What Kim Jong-un wants

The highest priority of Kim Jong-un and the Worker’s Party of Korea is regime preservation; they want the Kim dynasty to remain in power. Kim himself is paranoid. He is convinced that the United States wants to invade North Korea and fight a war in order to force regime change.

What we can’t do

The U.S. strategy so far has been to impose sanctions and to build up missile defense (which aims to strike down a missile launched by an enemy before it reaches it target), but we can’t rely on either, according to Kimball. Though sanctions are a useful tool they will not stop Kim from testing nuclear missiles. Additionally, while missile defense is helpful in specific situations, it is not developed to help in a surprise attack, which is the most likely scenario in this case.

Some military experts advocate for a precision first strike to neutralize the nuclear threat. (A precision first strike is an attack on an enemy’s nuclear arsenal to eliminate the enemy’s ability to retaliate.) But U.S.  intelligence on North Korea is not excellent, making it almost certain that at least one of North Korea’s missiles would be left standing after the strike. As far as conventional options go, the U.S. could absolutely succeed in a military conflict, but it would come at a great cost — millions of lives.

“Are there military options?” Kimball asked. “Of course. But we don’t like them.”

What we can do

Kimball advocates for third-party diplomacy. He argues that no progress can be made between a leader who has never heard “no,” Kim Jong-un, and a leader with an over-sized ego, President Trump. He said in order to engage North Korea in discussions, the United States must acknowledge North Korea’s security concerns. The U.S. should send someone else in to initiate dialogue, whether it be French President Macron (who has volunteered for the job), a religious figure, or someone else. In the meantime, Kimball argues, President Trump must tone down his rhetoric.

He closed his lecture with a quote from President John F. Kennedy after the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962: “Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to the choice of either a humiliating defeat or a nuclear war.”

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Dallas Morning News reports on Tower Center-LCLD healthcare policy forum

The Tower Center and Latino Center for Leadership and Development (LCLD) held a policy forum Oct. 10 called “The Status of Latino Health in a Shifting Political Landscape.” The forum featured research funded by the Tower Center-LCLD partnership from Edward D. Vargas, assistant professor for the School of Transborder Studies at Arizona State University. Also on the expert panel was Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and University of Texas Southwestern clinical practice manager Daffodil Baez.

Read about our event in the Dallas Morning News here.

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Will President Xi Jinping seek a third term?

Photo: Reuters

Hiroki Takeuchi, Tower Center Senior Fellow and Director of the Sun & Star Program, was quoted in an article in the South China Morning Post about the possible future of Chinese President Xi Jingping. Takeuchi believes that even though it’s possible that President Xi will seek out a third term, it is more likely that he will abstain due to the Chinese political norm that shuns such a prolonged presidency.

“The act of seeking a third term itself will undermine the institutional mechanism that supports the resilience of one-party rule,” Takeuchi said.

Read the article here.

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TC Associate publishes study on education policy and student mobilization

Tower Center Associate Dominique Baker published a study in The Journal of Higher Education that investigates for connections between a school’s racial and gender diversity and the likelihood of an I, Too, Am campaign on campus. I, Too, Am Harvard was the first campaign of its kind, which sought to highlight the experiences of black students attending the Ivy League school; similar campaigns have since been adopted by groups at other universities. Baker found that changes in the level of women and racial minorities on campus did not actually impact the likelihood of adoption of a campaign at all.

Read Baker’s research here.

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Cullum Clark: Tax reform will be harder to pass than healthcare

Tower Center Fellow and director of the SMU Economics Center Cullum Clark was interviewed on NBC 5 about the GOP’s newly proposed tax reform plan.

“We’ve already seen that the Republicans have already had a really hard time reaching consensus on healthcare where they promised repeal or repeal and replace for years…tax reform, I would argue, is harder,” Clark said.

Watch the interview here.

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Does it matter if imports from Mexico are actually made of U.S. stuff?

Executive director of the Tower Center and Mission Foods Texas-Mexico Center was quoted in an article for the Houston Chronicle regarding imports from Mexico and their impacts on the U.S. economy. Luisa del Rosal argues that even if most of an import is made abroad, it can still have a positive effect in the domestic marketplace because of the lesser cost to consumers.

“Consumers lose their ability to buy things if we aren’t able to produce them in the most effective ways,” del Rosal said. “There has to be a better way to measure what value it adds to our economy than what percentage is made in a certain country.”

Read the article here.

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TC Expert analyzes the latest EU Withdrawal Bill

Tower Center Fellow Sionaidh Douglas-Scott wrote a piece for The UK in a Changing Europe Initiative that looks at the possible impact of the current EU Withdrawal Bill. As Britain works through the legal necessities required to complete Brexit and separate from the EU the British government must figure out how to adopt or dismiss massive amounts of previously ruling European Union Law. Douglas-Scott believes that the current draft of the Withdrawal Bill threatens to completely upset the traditional balance of and separation of powers in the British government.

“If the Bill stands in its current form, Parliament will be handing over powers to the Executive on an unprecedented scale,” she wrote.

Read her essay here.

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Student Blog | Investment & Risk in Energy Transport

Dedman Law School Professor James Coleman gives a lecture at the Tower Center Sept. 18.

Dedman Law School Professor James Coleman led a discussion at the Tower Center looking at the complexities of the energy sector focusing on transportation as the driving force. His talk covered what is driving new investment in energy transport, what is holding that investment back, and how the U.S. can better the procedures involved. Read HCM Tower Scholar Destiny Rose Murphy’s summary of the lecture below.

The need for new energy transport investment – pipelines and powerlines

The fracking revolution opened huge new oil reservoirs all across states and regions that had previously had little to no local oil. These new production sites mean that now oil does not need to be transported into traditionally oil-needy areas, like Texas and the Midwest. Instead, what is needed is pipelines to take oil out of these new production sites.

There is a parallel need in the renewable energy world. Though there is a great deal of land in the center of the country that is perfect for wind energy production, this land is significantly less populated, and so requires significantly less energy than the U.S.’s densely packed coastal regions. That means that renewable energy production projects from these areas need to build powerlines to bring the energy to more populated areas.

Adequate energy transportation is increasingly important because of the desire to use renewable resources. Though solar power may be able to cover half a city’s power usage during the prime sunshine hours of the day, that same city needs to have other energy resources to fill in during non-solar hours. Without flexible backup energy, like natural gas, that can be turned up or down during different times of day, cities often cannot fully utilize renewable resources. Unfortunately, however, natural gas is expensive to transport because it requires a pipeline. This means it is often right at the source, instead of being sent to cities that need it.

Trends increase uncertainty for investors

With all that need for power transportation, it would seem that investment in the energy transport sector should be booming. However, several policy and public action trends have contributed to uncertainty for investors, resulting in lower levels of energy transportation investment.

Opponents of certain kinds of energy have realized that transportation is a perfect choke point for halting energy production. These advocacy groups have thus launched projects to halt transportation of energy, including everything from protesting pipeline production to suspending people from bridges to prevent boats from passing through harbors. These protests have drawn media attention, which has led to increased fights and huge swings in energy transportation policy.

The swings in energy transportation policy have manifested in huge sets of rule changes. The Obama administration moved toward growing the power of the federal government in regard to decisions on the legality of interstate projects, which was shown greatly in the fights over the Keystone XL pipeline.  Several states have also pushed to increase their power, especially in the area of gas pipelines, sometimes requiring power transportation projects to get permission from each individually affected county in the state before beginning construction. These grabs for power in the energy transportation sector have led to new rule sets and constantly moving governmental review deadlines that make investors hesitate to believe that energy transport projects can ever get done and return on investments.

Principles to enable the energy future

Professor Coleman proposed three policy suggestions that he believes will reduce the costs in energy transport procedure, and more generally improve the process by which energy transportation projects are produced and completed.

  1. Hard deadlines for reviews and projects, so that investors can know definitively when the project will move forward.
  2. There should not be overlapping review on projects; though both the states and the federal government should be included in the discussions on projects, there should be strict rules on who gets the final say.
  3. Coleman proposed that new rules regarding the creation of energy transportation projects should only be implemented on future projects so that projects already underway are not affected. By not applying new rules to existing projects the government would be able to provide certainty to investors.

Destiny Rose Murphy is from Denton, Texas and is triple majoring in political science, English, and philosophy, each of which she will be pursuing distinction in, as well as minoring in Human Rights and Public Policy and International Affairs. In addition to being an HCM Tower Scholar, she is a Dedman Scholar and a Second Century Scholar. In her free time she writes and is managing editor for the Honors Magazine Hilltopics, competes with SMU’s award winning competitive ballroom dancing team, and has founded a Rotaract club on campus to provide service for the greater Dallas community in conjunction with the Dallas Rotary Club. Her policy interests focus on the judicial branch and how policy can be affected through nontraditional, non-legislative means. She hopes to pursue a career in the judiciary, and dreams of one day becoming a Supreme Court Justice.

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