Center will coordinate international health efforts

By Jeremy Thompson, Staff Writer

U students will soon be making a larger impact on international health care.

Students and faculty are working to establish a global health center on campus that would coordinate the U’s international medical efforts while allowing students to collaborate to gain valuable work experience.

“We want to expand activities of the global health program at the U,” said Katie Miller, a senior in history and a coordinator of the project. “We want to increase the number of students involved, including graduate and undergraduate students.”

DeVon Hale, professor of infectious disease at the U School of Medicine, said a center is necessary to bring together the efforts of different professionals on campus. Hale said that in the past, U students and professors would travel to international destinations to assist with local medical care. However, there was usually no follow-up after the initial visit, and as a result, the long-term effects of the visits were limited.

Hale said that since 2001, the U has attempted to solve this problem by operating a small number of medical facilities in locations such as Ghana that allow approximately 50 faculty and 40 to 50 students per year to help with public health programs. He said the students and faculty work on projects dealing with issues ranging from sewer water to education about basic health concerns, as well as following up on suggestions made during the previous visit.

In return, medical students from Ghana then travel to the U to learn how patient care is handled here. The groups are thus able to share ideas and hopefully improve care for a greater number of people.

“Right now, there are a lot of international projects and opportunities out there for health science students at the U, but there is not any real coordination between them,” Hale said. “This center would provide a way for the different departments to collaborate together while providing opportunities for students that they don’t normally have.”

Marko Mijic, a senior in behavioral science and health and a coordinator, said the center will help connect upper and lower campus and promote research opportunities in many different countries. He said the goal is to get students involved across a variety of disciplines to improve the quality of care throughout the world.

Mijic said the program would pair undergraduate students with graduate students already involved in health science affairs. The collaboration would allow students to work together to address challenges in a variety of fields.

“We have to think of public health as the part of health that deals with entire communities,” said Stephen Alder, chief of the division of public health. “We don’t treat individuals, but rather entire groups. As a result, it takes a large amount of work involving a large number of people to make these initiatives successful. Although we are making progress, we still have a long way to go.”

Miller said the center will provide another opportunity to increase the global efforts of the U by providing additional sources of private funding, and allowing the center to expand into even more countries.

Organizers of the center hope to have it fully functional by next spring.

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Katie Miller

Second year medical student Jessica Goodman holds a child during a U international health care effort. Students and faculty are working to establish a global health center on campus.