Building relationships in Latin America

IGHID Latin America Projects Manager Pia McDonald, PhD, has a busy week ahead of her hosting a delegation from University of Nicaragua, Léon (UNAN), as well as a senior researcher from Universidad del Valle de Guatemala.

The delegation from Nicaragua includes Rodolfo Peña, MD, PhD, Dean of the School of Medicine, UNAN and Eliette Vallardes, MD, PhD, Director UNAN Center for Epidemiology and Health (CIDS). UNC has had a relationship with UNAN for the past five years, but now, with the backing of IGHID, we hope to expand research collaborations in the areas of demography and medical geography, maternal and child health, gastric cancers (Nicaragua is #2 in the world in rates of gastric cancers), water sanitation, HIV and vector borne diseases. UNC is extremely strong in each of these areas, with faculty who are very active internationally.

I had the opportunity to meet with Drs. Peña and Vallardes today, and it was exciting to learn about the collaborations that have already occurred. UNC has sent medical students to work with Nicaraguan counterparts on a health surveillance project in the isolated Sahsa region, which was hit particularly hard by Hurricane Mitch in 1999.

Our other Latin American guest this week is Gabriela Paz-Bailey, MD, who heads the Research and Surveillance Unit for the Global AIDS Program for Central America, funded by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Paz-Bailey is also associated with the AIDS International Training and Research Program (AITRP). UNC participates in the NIH-funded AITRP progam through its research sites in China and Malawi. The hope here is that UNC can work with Universidad del Valle de Guatemala and the AITRP to build and HIV/AIDS research hub in Latin America.

Our visitors have a full schedule of meetings and talks, and we look forward to forging successful future collaborations.

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