Growth in Many Directions: Global Health at the Larner College of Medicine

Majid Sadigh, M.D.
Majid Sadigh, M.D.

As we pass the five-year mark since the inception of our Western Connecticut Health Network/Larner College of Medicine Global Health Program in June of 2012, we celebrate the remarkable multidirectional growth that has transpired. We have substantially increased the number of our network participants in international training sites, developed a robust bidirectional component in support of junior faculty from our partner sites for extended capacity building experiences at WCHN, deepened the academic teaching curriculum at home and abroad, and added a significant volume of scholarly publications to expand the academic footprint of the Global Health Program.

We have been nationally and internationally recognized as one of the best programs of its kind in the country. Its longitudinal nature, careful selection of participants based on global health competencies, and diverse approaches to help emotionally prepare participants for the challenges of global health are among the many characteristics that make our program salient. Furthermore, we not only instill in participants the tools needed to become leaders in global health, but also the hope and motivation to someday grow into that role.

Annually, we now support more than one-hundred global health participants from the United States and provide extended training experiences for fifteen of our international colleagues. Through extensive collaborations, research, and publications, we have made significant contributions to growth in the field of global health, principally introduction of the global health concept, evidence-based medicine, and tropical medicine in Russia as well as the Dominican Republic where we have also supported establishment of a global health track for their own medical students.

In addition to the meaningful achievements reached together with our partners, we have also developed valuable educational structures that can serve as models for other programs. Among these includes a system of early global health exposure and mentorship, an interactive simulation lab to prepare participants, standardized site-specific safety protocols, a unique homestay model, an intensive pre-departure curriculum in tropical medicine and global health ethics, and a comprehensive team approach for working and living in global health elective sites.

Furthermore, our research has been heavily centered on serving human needs, namely, advocacy of informal patient caregivers in Mulago Hospital, conduction of community health needs assessments in Mpererwe and Paraiso, donation of solar lights and assessment of their impact on childhood education in Nakaseke, and implementation of a water purification project in Naggalama. Meanwhile, our program is also distinctive at the administrative level for containment of each department at the University of Vermont and Western Connecticut Health Network under one unified umbrella, with all activities unified toward the same goals.

As we open a new chapter in the Global Health Program, we strive toward greater collaborative national and international research with our partners around the world who are not only highly skilled and capable scholars, but also passionate leaders in global health. These projects can be utilized as tools for acquiring grants which can be beneficial for both repute and funding. Our experience this summer attempting to compile a grant funded by the National Institute of Health illuminated the resolute commitment of our highly esteemed partners and the unmatched potential of our multinational program.

Now that we have created an outstanding bidirectional education program, our next step will be to further advance the program’s caliber by competing for federal and foundation grants that merge with the interests and expertise of faculty at Western Connecticut Health Network, the Larner College of Medicine, and our international partner sites. We look forward to exploring the building of the capacity necessary to conduct meaningful research. In this way, we can not only maintain the global health program but expand it to achieve its great potential.

In light of the increasing frequency of devastating natural disasters, we hope to assemble an Emergency Relief Division whereby we can prepare our residents and faculty for deployment to affected areas in support of those who have suffered. While establishment of such a division would require meticulous planning, it would further strengthen our commitment to helping the underserved. From serving communities in rural areas in Vermont and urban areas in Western Connecticut, to supporting the Ebola epidemic confinement effort in Liberia, this commitment has always been at the core of our mission.

Our hearts go out to those in need around the world and here at home. We aspire to further build our program toward continued advocacy of the underserved.

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