January 31, 2011

More global health opps for students

Travel grants are now available for 53 projects in 28 countries

Nancy Glass, seen here interviewing a family in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, will be one of the faculty mentors in the new travel grant program. Photo: Mervyn Christian

Last March, President Ronald J. Daniels announced an initiative to let more Johns Hopkins students pursue international public health experiences. To jump-start the initiative, the President’s Office helped fund the creation of Johns Hopkins global health awards, travel grants for students in all divisions and in all disciplines, nearly a quarter of them designated for undergraduates.

This investment is about to pay dividends.

Through assistance from the President’s Office, the Center for Global Health developed the Global Health Established Field Placement program, which provides students the means to work with faculty on established projects overseas. The program was successfully piloted this past summer with seven projects in six countries. The projects, hosted by the Bloomberg School’s Center for Communication Programs, Jhpiego and faculty from the Bloomberg School, included malaria research in Ghana, sexually transmitted disease prevention in Ethiopia and maternal influenza research in Nepal.

Given the success of the pilot, the Center for Global Health called on faculty this past fall to join the program and create a wealth of new opportunities.

The response was overwhelming.

As part of the now fully established program, interested students will get to choose from 53 health-related projects in 28 countries around the globe, including sites in Africa, South America and Asia. Eleven of the projects are open to undergraduates.

Richard W. Dunning, program manager for the Center for Global Health, said that he was blown away by the faculty reaction.

“I was anxious when we first sent out the request. I thought, nobody is going to want to do this. Maybe 16 to 20, tops,” Dunning said. “We were extremely pleased with how the faculty embraced this program. I know the faculty and students who participated in the pilot just loved the experience.”

The application period for the program began last week and placements will begin in the summer.

Students selected to participate will be required to assist at the overseas site for the posted period, which can vary in duration from four weeks to six months. Their $3,500 grant will help cover the cost of transportation and costs of living in-country. The host faculty and/or site 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 program is open to students at all divisions except Master of Public Health students, first-year medical students and those who would be completing their studies prior to their projected travel date.

The program is designed primarily for the student who wishes to obtain a global health experience in research or practice in a developing country but does not require an independent research experience.

The project list includes diabetes research in Trinidad and Tobago, newborn child health in Tanzania, reduced tobacco use in Indonesia, malaria prevention in Uganda, an osteoporosis survey in Peru, road safety in China and many others.

Students will conduct interviews, provide data collection, develop forms and perform a host of duties.

“It’s real-life stuff that needs to be done,” Dunning said. “We did not want faculty to just make busywork for the students. They get something out of it, and the student gets something out of it.”

Jackie Sofia, a program associate with the Center for Global Health, said that the faculty put a lot of effort into creating these positions.

“The students who go overseas will learn valuable skills and learn a bit more about themselves,” Sofia said. “They will also learn a lot of what it’s like to live in a developing country.”

Dunning said that he hoped these grants could provide transformational experiences. He said that such projects, particularly in the developing world, provide students with a global perspective that serves them well in their life and career.

“Students who have an overseas experience seem to return more appreciative of public health and are more likely to work in a setting where they take care of underserved people,” he said. “That is a pretty good outcome. Even if they don’t go work overseas again, they’ll do some good work here.”

The grants are supported financially by the President’s Office and commitments from the deans of the schools of Medicine, Nursing and Public Health.

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.

To apply for the grants and to see a full list of the project sites, go to www
.hopkinsglobalhealth.org/our_work/travel_grants. Applications are due by Feb. 21. The announcement of selections will take place on or around April 4.