March 8, 2010

New global health opps for students

Johns Hopkins defines its mission as sharing knowledge with the world. A new initiative will let more university students do that firsthand during their time here.

President Ronald J. Daniels on Thursday announced the creation of Johns Hopkins global health awards, 85 grants for students in all divisions to pursue international public health experiences. Thirty of them are designated for undergraduates.

The awards, which will begin in the next academic year and will be overseen largely by the Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health, constitute a roughly 200 percent increase in the number of global health opportunities currently provided by the university. They will come in the form of $3,500 grants for projects around the globe, including those building upon existing Johns Hopkins partnerships with universities abroad.

Daniels made the announcement during Global Health Day at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. The event celebrated the work that Johns Hopkins students have completed during the past year and included a poster session and presentations by some of the students who spent time overseas in such places as Haiti, Kenya and the Republic of the Congo.

Daniels applauded the work of those in attendance, and said that their endeavors serve as an inspiration.

“With this new initiative, we look to you and others at Johns Hopkins to take advantage of these awards and go abroad, and then bring your experience, your energies, your new perspectives back to Baltimore and rekindle our commitments to the various challenges we face in global health,” Daniels said.

Just before he made the announcement, Daniels spoke about a personal overseas public health experience. A few years ago, he traveled to Botswana with colleagues working with HIV-infected patients. Like any academic, Daniels said, he studied rigorously for the trip, right down to learning the local handshake.

“But from the time my plane landed, I knew nothing could prepare me for the visceral and really profound experience this trip would have,” Daniels said. “Nothing could substitute the opportunity to work with doctors working with a pandemic. Nothing could prepare me for the heroism and courage of the patients. And nothing, certainly, could prepare me for meeting with orphans whose parents were lost to AIDS. Nothing could prepare me for that.”

Daniels said that he hopes these grants could provide such transformational experiences.

The initiative will be supported financially by the President’s Office and commitments from the deans of the schools of Medicine, Nursing and Public Health. It comes in response to the increasing interest in global health among students and medical trainees. One survey, conducted by Johns Hopkins and three other universities, found that of respondents who were interested in a career in global health, more than 60 percent cited an “overseas experience” as a primary source of interest.

Daniels said that such experiences, particularly in the developing world, provide students with a global perspective that serves them well in their life and career. Studies suggest that these experiences are associated with greater public health awareness, an increased likelihood of working with underserved populations, and enhanced clinical and communication skills.

The initiative involves a multifaceted approach.

The 85 awards include an additional 20 Global Health Field Research Awards. Johns Hopkins currently offers 34. Ten of the new ones will be targeted to undergraduates, and the remaining will be added to the pool of awards available to all students.

The initiative will develop “placement” sites where students can form relationships with faculty mentors who work overseas. The Center for Global Health will work with its JHU partners to identify 11 sites in developing countries that are willing to accept one or more students—up to a total of 18—for a six- to eight-week experience. The program will involve research with faculty and opportunities to participate in programmatic fieldwork, such as health program evaluation. The sites will be responsible for finding adequate and safe housing for the students, developing an academically appropriate set of tasks and experiences, and providing supervision of the work.

The announcement of the sites will come later this year and be posted on the Center for Global Health’s Web site (www Student placements will begin in summer 2011.

As part of the initiative, Johns Hopkins also will develop undergraduate public health rotations in Uganda and South Africa, building upon Medicine’s and Public Health’s 20-year relationship with the Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, and the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Ten undergraduate public health students will be able to study at the Makerere University’s School of Public Health and 10 at the University of Cape Town, all for six- to eight-week periods. The programs will include lectures, visits to research and health care sites, and opportunities for Johns Hopkins students to interact and develop relationships with local students. Homewood’s Undergraduate Program in Public Health Studies, working closely with the campus’s Study Abroad Office and the Center for Global Health, will coordinate this program.

In addition, 12 medical-resident travel awards will be created, as will up to 14 awards for undergraduate nurses who wish to seek overseas experiences. The medical-resident awards will involve a rotation site with one of the university’s partner institutions and could begin as early as September 2010. The site selections for Nursing undergraduates will be made jointly by the School of Nursing and the Center for Global Health.

Thomas Quinn, founding director of the Center for Global Health, said that he is delighted to play a role in offering these “life-changing” opportunities.

“I am so thankful to the president for leading this effort to get more of our students to experience global health overseas,” said Quinn, a professor of international health, epidemiology and molecular microbiology and immunology in the Bloomberg School and professor of medicine in the School of Medicine. “It’s clear that President Daniels has made it one of his top priorities to support the students. With this initiative, we want them to get engaged with people of different cultures and backgrounds, and to experience what they learn in the classroom. That is the key, I believe. You go to this university and you learn all the basic ingredients of an education, but to put that knowledge into action while you’re a student means so much more.”

The Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health was launched in 2006 to coordinate and focus the university’s efforts against HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, hepatitis, flu and other worldwide health threats, especially in developing countries. The center bridges the international work of the schools of Public Health, Medicine and Nursing.

For more information on the center, go to