Fogarty: Calling All Geeks for Global Health

Roger Glass, Fogarty International Center

The last several decades have witnessed the greatest prolongation of life in the history of humanity. That’s the good news.  The bad news: a growing global burden of chronic disease.  Fortunately, groups like the National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center are helping to ease the pain. 

The Fogarty International Clinical Research Scholars Program gives U.S. and developing country advanced degree students in the health sciences a year of mentored clinical research training at a site in the developing world, with the intention of grooming new global health leaders from multiple disciplines. The door is open not only to “traditional” medical professionals, but also to others, from bioengineers to dentists, all “geeks for global health” are welcome to apply, said Roger Glass, Director of the Fogarty.  He cited the case of bioengineering students from a Texas university, who used a beer cooler and an old car battery to create a low-cost refrigeration for vaccines. 

Three Fogarty scholars spoke at the CUGH session.  They were: a cardiologist who worked in Kenya, an ob-gyn who worked in Zambia; and an HIV researcher who worked in Peru.

Gerald Bloomfield, MD, a cardiology fellow at Duke worked at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eloret, Kenya, for a year.  Among his projects were: home-based screening for hypertension, which will enroll 600,000 patients over next few years; the creation of a two-year clinical research training experience in global cardiovascular disease research; and the study of atherosclerosis in sub-Saharan Africa and its relationship to HIV and cardiovascular disease.

Krista Pfaendler, MD, an ob-gyn at the University of Cincinnati, relayed her experience in Zambia. She helped to create a screening program for human papilloma virus (HPV) for women in that country. Starting from scratch in 2006, the program has now screened 50,000 women for the virus that causes cervical cancer—the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women in Zambia. It has established 17 clinics in the country and is training and collaborating with doctors and nurses in Cameroon, Botswana, Uganda, South Africa, Nigeria, and China.

The third former Fogarty fellow, Magaly Blas, MD, is now a research professor in Cayetano Heredia Peruvian University.  Her fellowship involved training physicians and nurses in how to search for medical information on the Internet and developing online video-based interventions to increase HIV testing among men who have sex with men.

While none of the three seemed to fit the strict definition of a “Geek for Global Health,” they certainly bring new dimensions of expertise to a Global Health practice for the 21rst Century.

Prepared by Bee Wuethrich

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