By: Lisa Croucher, Duke Global Health Institute
Dr. Roger Glass, Director of the Fogarty International Center (FIC) at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), outlined opportunities for training and research in global health as envisioned by NIH and by FIC and its international collaborators. Glass highlighted sample FIC programs and partnerships, including those with universities, with other NIH centers and institutes, with the private sector, and with the governments of other countries.
Glass stressed the importance of providing young scientists with substantive, innovative and well-mentored research opportunities early in their career, comparing those experiences to “early childhood education.” To reinforce his point, Glass presented a slide showing the career trajectories of early participants in the AIDS International Training and Research Program (AITRP) that was established by FIC in 1988 to train scientists in developing countries to address the AIDS epidemic. He noted that each of the trainees had gone on to successful and impactful careers in HIV/AIDS research and policy and, notably, they all had returned to work from within their country of origin. “These people represent sustainable research in the developing world,” Glass said. Dr. David Serwadda, Professor of Public Health at Makerere University in Uganda, who is in attendance at the Montreal conference was one of the early AITRP trainees featured on the slide. Glass underscored the importance of these sustained relationships with and between researchers all over the world noting that those relationships “build the bridges between those with eyes in the sky and those with their feet on the ground.”
In keeping with his early childhood education and “lifespan” theme, Glass noted that most of the US-based leaders in global health were early beneficiaries of FIC programs. He also noted that they all are “old white men” who were trained as infectious disease physicians. He then projected a slide showing “Tomorrow’s Leaders in Global Health,” a smiling group of young FIC-supported men and women from all over the world addressing global health challenges from multiple cultural and disciplinary perspectives.
Glass described NIH’s burgeoning partnerships with the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) countries and presented specific funding programs that were jointly developed by NIH with the Indian and Chinese governments, both of which have been increasing investments in health research. Glass described these collaborative programs as a “way to get twice the results with half the cost and at a quicker speed.”
In addition to promoting and supporting global partnerships, FIC is promoting the exploration of emerging technology to support current and future global health research. Glass noted that cellphones can now be used to access Medline, to examine cells with a lens-free microscope attachment, measure activity and diet, and monitor adherence to anti-retroviral treatment. “New technology is game changing” in health research, Glass said.
Fogarty has recently partnered with the Fulbright program to establish a Fogarty-Fulbright Fellowship in Public Health to promote the expansion of research in public health and clinical research in resource-limited settings. The first four fellows were selected in July 2011 to work in three countries, and FIC hopes to extend to 16 countries in the coming year.
Glass noted that an increasing number of NIH institutes and centers are supporting global health programs and activities. Global health is no longer contained within NIAID, NCI, and the Office of AIDS Research. Similarly, FIC is supporting not only projects that are based in traditional health areas, but also innovative programs that involve law, ethics, economics, engineering, decision making, anthropology, and a range of social sciences. He pointed to the FIC Framework Programs for Global Health Innovation as an example (http://www.fic.nih.gov/programs/pages/framework-innovations.aspx).
The FIC strategy will continue to focus on non-communicable diseases, implementation science, building and supporting new partnerships, maintaining core emphasis on training for research, and supporting the efforts of NIH in global health. Glass also appended global mental health to the list of strategic directions. He called on universities to encourage electives and rotations in developing countries for students and residents, build partnerships and twinning relationships, and address health disparities at home and abroad (engaging what he called the “glocal” community).
Glass concluded his talk by stressing that supporting global health efforts is good for science, diplomacy, humanity, business and competition, good for the war on terrorism, and good for our own future. In short, he said, it’s the right thing to do. “These are wonderful times,” he said, “and we have to take advantage of it while we have it.”