A meeting of minds around global health

March 14, 2014 — In the 1930s, physician and UNC alumnus George Hatem emigrated to China to establish a practice to treat what was then called “venereal disease” and provide medical care to the poor. Hatem went on to lead efforts to eradicate syphilis in China and was recognized with a Lasker Award for his accomplishments.

GH-Summit-2014

At the Global Health Summit meeting, Joe Tucker, director of UNC Project-China, recounts the history of Tar Heels conducting health research in China.

Now, many decades later, syphilis has again reared its ugly head in China, in part due to the country’s rapidly expanding economy and mass internal migration. And again, along with our Chinese colleagues, the Tar Heels are leading the way, through our research and training programs at UNC Project-China, part of the Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases.

The rich histories of UNC’s global health programs in China and Malawi, as well as our newest flagship site in Zambia, were the subject of a “global health summit” meeting on February 17 hosted at the Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases.  The IGHID leadership team, including director Myron Cohen and associate directors Peggy Bentley and Jeffrey Stringer, hosted the summit.

The summit convened deans and other leaders from medicine, pharmacy, public health, nursing, and dentistry, in addition to Vice Chancellor for Research Barbara Entwisle, to communicate the institute’s commitment to our three centers of excellence in Malawi, Zambia, and China, and encourage participation and a sense of ownership of these flagship sites by all of the health sciences.

Dr. Cohen, together with Mina Hosseinipour and Irving Hoffman calling in from Lilongwe, detailed the more than twenty-year history of UNC Project-Malawi, and how it has grown from a single project on sexually transmitted infections to a large research, training, and clinical care center with programs around HIV, malaria, cancer, obstetrics, nutrition, trauma, and burns.

Bill Roper, dean of the medical school, has visited Malawi and encouraged his fellow deans to see UNC Project-Malawi for themselves.

Faculty interest in global research and student demand for global opportunities have increased dramatically over the past decade or so, and in 2007, the IGHID was established partly in response to this campus-wide demand to “go global.”

The efforts in China, Malawi and Zambia have been hugely successful, but there was consensus that we need to develop strategies for collaboration that cut across the schools, centers, and institutes.

Cohen stressed that we want to continue to build successful partnerships that not only provide opportunities for our students and faculty, but also encourage the university as a whole to embrace these important global sites, ensure their future, and join together to tackle the world’s toughest health problems.