Dr. Haile T. Debas, M.D., chair member of the Board of Directors of the Consortium of Universities of Global Heath (CUGH) and professor of University of California, San Francisco, opened the conference tonight at the Meany Hall of Performance Arts at the University of Washington in Seattle. Dr. Debas told the story of how CUGH was born and its agenda for 2011.
Dr. Debas believes universities can contribute to global health through research activities and believes the universities need to work together around the world in collaboration. This is the fundamental charter for CUGH which was originally born from Jerry Keusch of Boston University in 2004. Despite Keusch’s well intentions, he wasn’t able to get the funding needed to get the consortium off the ground. Jamie Sepulveda of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) revisited the idea in 2007 and was able to move it forward through funding from BMGF and the Rockefeller Foundation. At that time they put together a steering committee.
The inaugural CUGH meeting was held at the University of California, San Francisco in 2008 and has representation from 20 universities – participation tripled to 60 universities at the conference this year. Dr. Debas said he expects the registration to grow to 125 universities when CUGH merges with the Global Heath Education Consortium (GHEC), which he said they are working to accomplish in 2011. CUGH meeting attendance has also grown from 50 in 2008, to 850 today. Dr. Debas believes attendance has grown because CUGH is “an answer to pent up need and energy.”
There has been serious growth of global health programs. Dr. Debas cited several statistics that demonstrate this:
- 29 of the 37 university global health programs were only established in the last five years
- 268 universities have some global health program
- Of these 268 universities, 77 are described as global health centers
- 50 universities with global health centers offer degrees, tracks or concentrations
Dr. Debas noted the highlights for CUGH this year including its incorporation as a not-for-profit, the opening of a hub in Washington D.C., and the recipient of a three-year, $1.4 million operating grant from the BMGF to support the growth of CUGH until it becomes financially independent. He said CUGH “owes deep sense of gratitude to the BMGF for its partnership, inspiration and financial support provided over the last three years which has been pivotal to the growth of CUGH.”
Looking forward to 2011, Dr. Debas outlined the priority agenda for 2011. CUGH plans to complete merger discussions with GHEC, hold a joint CUGH-GHEC Annual Meeting in Montreal, develop membership services, and develop the Washington Office for Advocacy.
Dr. Debas closed his opening remarks by announcing the first CUGH Leadership Award to Tachi Yamada of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.