By Myron S. Cohen, MD
“If you want to see hope in the midst of despair, look to Dr. Jeff Stringer and his colleagues at CIDRZ. By any measure, they are global heroes.” – Mary Fisher, activist and special representative to UNAIDS
March 2012 – More than a decade ago, Jeff Stringer and his wife Elizabeth, both young obstetricians on the faculty at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, moved to Lusaka, Zambia. There, they collaborated with local people and expatriates over the years to conduct research, train health workers and provide clinical services to people of Lusaka. Initially, their work focused on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, but has since expanded to include family planning, providing safer pregnancy and delivery for local women, cervical cancer screening and prevention, tuberculosis care and much more.
Eventually these efforts developed into a cohesive, sustainable program called the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia, or CIDRZ.
I write all of this because I am very pleased to say that these “global heroes,” including both Jeff and Elizabeth Stringer and other members of their team, have just joined the faculty at UNC. In fact, in this same issue of the UNC Global newsletter, there is a story announcing the launch of UNC Global Women’s Health, a new division in the medical school’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, which will be led by Jeff Stringer.
I’d like to say a bit about how this happened, and where we are going.
For a variety of reasons, the Zambia team became interested in moving to another large American university. They were attracted to UNC’s commitment to global health, to women’s health, and to sub-Saharan Africa. Our program in neighboring Malawi, UNC Project-Malawi, is more than 20 years strong, and began similarly with a couple of faculty members working on a research project. Combined with our existing initiatives in South Africa, expanding our work into Zambia will create a regional presence and perspective that will enhance not only UNC’s global reputation, but also its impact on the health of the people in the region.
In July, Elizabeth Stringer will move to Chapel Hill to undertake advanced training in Maternal Fetal Medicine at UNC. Jeff Stringer will also be in Chapel Hill, building and leading the new Global Women’s Health division and working with us at the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases to advance women’s health in all of our programs, but especially those in Africa.
Drs. Ben Chi, Carolyn Bolton, and Groesbeck Parham will remain on the ground in Africa to direct the new UNC Project-Zambia. Dr. Parham, who heads the cervical cancer prevention initiatives in Zambia, will be a member of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and play a critical role in the center’s new and growing global cancer prevention programs.
Dr. Jeff Wilkinson, a UNC obstetrician who is also a core member of the new Global Women’s Health division, is based in Malawi, and his emergency obstetrics program there will complement the efforts in Zambia. Finally, Dr. Stewart Reid, another member of the Zambia team, will join the UNC Division of Infectious Diseases in April to lead tuberculosis research efforts.
The recruitment of this talented team is a truly great development for our university. The impact of these new divisions and programs will be far-reaching, providing opportunities for research discovery, service initiatives, and training programs for our faculty, and more importantly, for our students. For me personally, bringing the Zambia team to UNC was an exciting dream that actually came true.
Dr. Cohen writes a regular “Global Health Update” column for the UNC Global Newsletter. We reprint the item here.