Yogesh Shah

August 25, 2011

Yogesh ShahAssociate Dean, Global Health
Des Moines University

In 2006, Yogesh Shah was not sure where Belize was located on a map when he responded to a request for Des Moines University (DMU) faculty to accompany medical students there to do service work. This first foray into global health turned into such a success that Dr. Kendall Reed, the Dean of DMU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, decided to create a department of global health to make it easier for students to pursue international rotations. Reed appointed Shah to be the department’s first Associate Dean.

Since then, the global health program has become a draw for DMU, with rotations available at six sites in five countries—Mexico, St. Lucia, South Africa, Uganda and India. DMU also has informal agreements with institutions in other locations, such as Mali and Tanzania. The program, which paved the way for students at the university to be awarded coveted World Health Organization internships, also sponsors annual service trips to underserved countries such as Belize, El Salvador, Haiti and Guatemala.

“I feel my mission is to provide DMU students the opportunity to view health care from a less-privileged international perspective,” says Shah. “In settings where the DMU students can witness people walking an hour and a half just to see a doctor or clinician, they learn directly about health care access and the resulting problems, such as women dying during birth.”

Shortly after his appointment, Shah became curious about what else was going on in global health around the state. He sent out questionnaires, and the responses led to the formation in 2007 of the Heartland Global Health Consortium (HGHC). Members of the consortium share the common assumption that global learning experiences for students and faculty benefit Iowa and the US in the areas of economics, civic engagement and improvement of health outcomes. Shah says the members share the belief that collaboration and sharing of resources, as well as a focus on partnership with other countries, collaborative research, and educational programming, is crucial.

With eight members, including all three public colleges and five private schools in Iowa (Central College, Drake University, Iowa State University, Mercy College of Health Science, Simpson College, University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa and Des Moines University), the consortium convenes an annual global health conference. In addition to hearing from experts in the field, students have the opportunity to present their work. The consortium collaborates with Pioneer, a DuPont business based in Des Moines, and The World Food Prize to sponsor the conference.

Shah says he is amazed at the commitment and interest from young American health care providers. Recently, several gave up time during their own spring break to go to Honduras at their own cost to be part of Global Brigades health mission work.

Dan Deublein, a 2010 graduate of DMU’s physician assistant program, was an EMT/firefighter when he joined a trip to Belize, where he worked with Shah in a makeshift clinic in that drew an estimated 1,200 patients a day. Initially, Deublein’s official duties were triage (he was a trained EMT/firefighter) and Spanish translation, but when Shah learned he wanted to become a physician assistant, he invited him to observe examinations.

Deublein, in a 2010 article in dsm magazine was quoted as saying, “Dr. Shah is not only a wonderful health care provider, but (he) has the heart of a teacher. He teaches you how to effectively link health care, poverty and learning. He helped me understand the impact we have on the world. There are no borders in this world, we are all human, and Dr. Shah clearly recognizes this concept.”

Shah says that getting involved in global health has positively affected his own family, too. When leaving for that first trip to Belize, he asked his daughter to share something of hers and she reluctantly gave up a broken crayon. In the years since, his children (daughter now aged 13 and son 10), have grown to see the world is not just themselves and offer many items to send along on his trips. “They see the world is for all and should be shared,” says Shah.


Jennie Harris

August 25, 2011

Jennie HarrisUniversity of Alabama at Birmingham
PhD Student in Epidemiology

Although Jennie Harris says she had an interest in global health as early as high school, it wasn’t until a few years after finishing her undergraduate studies that she decided she wanted to work in the field. In 2001, she spent several months on a community development project in Guyana. Thinking back on the experience, she says “I knew nothing about HIV at the time. I remember learning about how the migration of men between their villages and mining communities and the power dynamic between teenage girls and older men were facilitating the spread of HIV in Guyana and I was fascinated.”

Harris went on to complete an MPH at the University of Washington and in 2006 was awarded a one-year fellowship with HIVCorps, a program of the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ). An independent NGO affiliated with the University of Alabama at Birmingham (a new CUGH institutional member), CIDRZ develops short- and long-term solutions in the battle against HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases in Africa.

Harris was placed with one of their new programs at that time: TB/HIV integration. “It was an exciting time to arrive in Zambia,” says Harris. We were in the midst of rapid scale-up of ART programs and there was suddenly a lot of interest in linking TB and HIV services due to the high prevalence of TB/HIV co-infection.” Within a few months, Harris knew she wanted to stay longer than her one-year fellowship and was ultimately offered a position as a program coordinator. In this position, Harris got to do a bit of everything including program planning, monitoring & evaluation, and budget management. In addition, she helped develop several study protocols and mentored medical students doing research projects at CIDRZ; these experiences made her realize that she wanted more training herself. Because Harris wanted to stay connected to her projects in Zambia, UAB seemed like a logical choice due to its affiliation with CIDRZ. She moved back the United States in 2009 to start her doctoral studies at UAB and has continued to work part-time for CIDRZ while in school.

In UAB’s Epidemiology program, Harris is now focused building her skills in study design and data analysis. “I’ve learned a ton since I’ve been here and am consistently impressed with how accessible and helpful the faculty are,” says Harris.

Harris envisions a future career that builds off the kind of work that CIDRZ is doing, in which research informs the delivery of services. “While the epidemiologist in me wants to design studies with rigorous and often resource-intensive data collection, the pragmatist in me wants to develop and implement sustainable programs that will be cost-effective and reach as many people as possible. So I’d like to work in an environment where I can do both” she says.

Internationally acknowledged as a leader in HIV/AIDS treatment and research, maternal-child health care and studies, and cervical cancer, malaria and tuberculosis practice, CIDRZ has remained rooted in local community health care while becoming a world-renowned resource for infectious disease research and program implementation.

Jennie can be contacted at jennieharris08@gmail.com.


Global Oral Health

August 25, 2011

School of Dentistry, University of California, San FranciscoSchool of Dentistry
University of California, San Francisco

“Oral diseases are among the most common diseases of human kind. And the most neglected,” says Dr. John S. Greenspan, Associate Dean for Global Oral Health at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), in a short YouTube video. “We actually have an epidemic of dental decay, particularly among underserved populations.”

Recognizing this problem, the UCSF School of Dentistry has made improving global oral health a priority, as announced in its 2010 strategic plan. One step in that direction was establishing the Global Oral Health program, led by Greenspan. The program, says Greenspan, is “a robust new initiative to greatly expand global health collaboration among those seeking to understand and effectively address oral health challenges.” Its mission is to improve oral and craniofacial health worldwide.

In May, the Global Oral Health Program hosted a day-long symposium at UCSF to bring attention to the issue.

“Inequalities experienced in earlier life can have a critical bearing on the health status of people throughout their lives,” said speaker David Williams, PhD, BDS, MSc, FRCPath, recent president of the International Association for Dental Research (IADR). He noted that poor oral health can even affect employment opportunities.

The goals for the UCSF Global Oral Health program include building, strengthening and coordinating activities in global oral health, along with development and support of programs of excellence in global oral health sciences and international health within the School of Dentistry, interacting with UCSF campus, the University of California as a whole, and other initiatives in global health.

Dr. Greenspan is organizing a session on Integrating Oral Health Into Global Health for the 2011 CUGH annual conference, November 13-15 in Montreal.


Mina Hosseinipour, MD, MPH

April 27, 2011

Mina Hosseinipour, MD, MPH, the clinical director of the University of North Carolina’s Project-Malawi (UNC Project), claims to be a bit of a late bloomer in the field of global health. While many young people now get their first experiences in high school or college, her interest didn’t really come about until she was in residency at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. During her residency, she interacted with large immigrant populations, particularly from Mexico, Central America and Nigeria, that introduced her to tropical infectious diseases and HIV. At the same time, antiretroviral therapy (ART) was introduced in the US, transitioning AIDS from a death sentence to a treatable condition.

But ART was expensive. Hosseinipour realized that this lifesaving medication was not reaching those in developing countries, particularly in Africa where HIV infection rates were shockingly high.

“As a young physician, I saw the potential to make an enormous and lasting impact on the global AIDS epidemic,” says Hosseinipour. “When choosing an infectious disease fellowship program, I only looked at those that had established activities in developing countries and strong schools of public health.”

She found that UNC-Chapel Hill fit her criteria. After completing Infectious Disease clinical training and MPH requirements, she went to Malawi for the third year of a fellowship to start her HIV research career.

Although she was there primarily to start an NIH-sponsored clinical trial, within days of arrival in Malawi, Triomune, the first triple combination ART arrived for paying clients. Hosseinipour was there in the outpatient clinic dispensing the medication to the lucky few who could afford it. In no time, as one of very few infectious disease-trained physicians in the country, Hosseinipour was suddenly involved in developing ART and opportunistic infections guidelines, ART training curriculums, and scale-up plans for the entire country.

She says she finds it humbling to think that she was part of a team that took Malawi from 60 patients that were receiving treatment in the first year, to the current number of over 300,000.

After her fellowship in Malawi, Hosseinipour was hired on to the faculty at UCN-Chapel Hill. “Being in the right place at the right time undoubtedly helped me to capitalize on the changing ART environment to build a research career focused on best practices in delivering ART in resource-limited settings,” she says.

Since 1990, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been collaborating with the Ministry of Health in Malawi and by 1999 UNC’s activities there were consolidated into UNC Project-Malawi, a center of excellence for HIV/STD research, care and training. UNC research projects have included improving the treatment of STDs and reducing adult and mother-to-child transmission of HIV. UNC Project is based on the campus of Kamuzu Central Hospital in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, and is a 1,000-bed, public tertiary care hospital operated by the MOH that serves a population of nearly four million people. UNC works in partnership with several important international organizations, including UNICEF and The World Food Programme, to develop care and support programs for people in Malawi. And UNC Project-Malawi serves as a training site of the NIH Fogarty International Center’s AIDS International Training and Research Program.

“Now, I see my role as transferring the skills I have learned over the years to the next generation of global health researchers, both from Malawi and the United States,” says Hosseinipour. “Despite the advances that have been made in the ART program, HIV is still a life-long disease and, therefore, new questions will always arise.”

Project Malawi video


Notre Dame Launches Masters Program in Global Health

April 27, 2011

Established in 2009 through an endowment from the Frank Eck Family, the University of Notre Dame’s Eck Institute brings together a diverse group of faculty, staff, and students from several colleges and departments whose research and teaching address questions that are relevant to global health. The Eck Institute for Global Health seeks to build on the University’s strengths in infectious diseases research and training. It also aims to foster the interdisciplinary research and training that is required to holistically address health disparities around the world.

The Institute is now in the process of establishing a master of science in global health degree program that will accept its inaugural class for admission in the fall of 2011. The program, including classroom and experiential learning, aims to prepare students for improving human health around the world, especially for the poor and under-served, a reflection of the University’s Catholic mission.

The master’s degree builds on the extensive global health-related science research and training already conducted at Notre Dame through the Eck Institute for Global Health. Notre Dame decided to develop a global health master’s program that is centered on science for two main reasons. First, Notre Dame has strength in scientific research in infectious diseases and other areas of global health. Second, the research and development capacity of universities in the United States is arguably the best in the world. Scientific research and skill development are viewed as a comparative advantage.

This science-centricity is one distinguishing feature of Notre Dame’s program in a field in which many masters programs are linked to medical schools. The Notre Dame program draws on faculty expertise mainly from the sciences, though some faculty from the Indiana University medical school—with which Notre Dame has a collaborative program—are engaged as well.

Students will receive a professional master of science in global health degree in one calendar year, including course work in global health challenges, research design, and bioethics, and six to eight weeks of field experience.

“Despite announcing the program rather late in the normal cycle for graduate school applications, students from across the country have responded in a very positive way,” says Joe Bock, the Eck Institute’s director of global health studies. “The program will allow students to make connections between classroom training in global health topics and real health needs of the world’s poor and underserved through hands-on experience. We want to help students widen their perspectives, to look closely at the reasons behind extreme poverty and vulnerability, and to develop practical skills so they can be part of the solution to address the enormous inequity in health-care systems around the world.”

Bock says participants in the program will also have the chance to live Notre Dame’s mission. “We see it as a fulfillment of the mission to bring about greater knowledge and rigorous science to bear on helping poor and vulnerable people, and the vast majority of those people are in developing countries,” he says. “This is not just about intellectual curiosity—this is about having a passion to really reach out and effect change.”


Benjamin Lu

April 27, 2011

Benjamin Lu was one of several students recognized by former President Bill Clinton at the fourth annual meeting of the Clinton Global Health Initiative University in San Diego in early April. Photo Credit: John Hanacek / Clinton Global Initiative

Benjamin Lu, a senior at Rice University in Houston, Texas, says he has always been interested in biomedical technology and how translational research could bring cutting-edge solutions to the developing world. It was through a biomedical engineering course that Lu, a Bioengineering major with a minor in Global Health Technology, took during his junior year that he was able to bring his desire to help others to fruition. His outstanding work in this course won him the chance to travel to Swaziland to assist on a project targeted at preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS.

Swaziland, a landlocked country in southern Africa, has been devastated by the AIDS epidemic. More than a quarter of the adults between the ages of 15 and 49 are infected with the virus, and the average life expectancy in the country is 37. Spoons or measuring cups are commonly used to take HIV/AIDS medication, but they often result in inaccurate dosing of antiretroviral medications, which limits the efficacy of the drugs and can lead to viral resistance.

“Technology and society have progressed enormously during the past century, but all of these advancements have occurred in developed countries and the wave of progress seems to have skipped over areas such as southern Swaziland,” says Lu.

In 2009, Rice University undergraduate students developed DoseRight, a simple, inexpensive plastic clip that attaches to an oral syringe and ensures accurate medical dosage by stopping the syringe plunger after the right amount of medication has been dispensed. In 2010, Lu joined a team whose objective was to demonstrate and gather feedback on the DoseRight for use with liquid antiretroviral medications in Swaziland. There was a significant interest in using these clips in the national program for the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS. Team DoseRight is now collaborating with Clinton Health Access Initiative 3rd Stone Design, and the Swaziland Ministry of Health to help distribute the clips.

Lu and other students who have worked with the clips (Cindy Dinh, Qing Lina Hu and Amanda Gutierrez) presented at the fourth annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) in San Diego in early April of this year. President Clinton also featured the team when he announced innovative student projects that will improve health care in Africa, help the children around the world go to school, and increase understanding between American and Middle Eastern college students.

While in Swaziland with fellow intern Lauren Theis, Lu also noticed there were tremendous problems with recording medical information on a variety of forms for use by treating physicians. Lu came up with a simplified chart that, with little training, allows the caregiver to enter two sets of information that form intersecting lines and provide accurate reports for doctors to evaluate progress. Collaboration with the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs (ICAP) at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University has resulted in widespread use of these adherence charts.

Lu says his greatest satisfaction came from working with people in Swaziland. He has since decided apply to medical school, where he feels his engineering can be put to good use.

“I’m grateful for the many opportunities to implement these innovations,” says Lu. “Based on our work in Swaziland, I want to make the best use of the infrastructure that was already in place, and then build on that to create even greater change.”

Ben gave a TEDx talk last November during which he discussed some of his work in Swaziland (his portion begins at 28:40)


Muhammad Zaman, PhD

January 27, 2011

Muhammad Zaman, PhD

Assistant Professor, Biomedical Engineering
Principle Investigator, Laboratory for Engineering Education and Development
Boston University

Focus: At the interface of cell biology, mechanics, systems engineering and medicine, Zaman seeks to develop robust technologies and innovative solutions to improve the quality and practice of medicine in the developing world.

Challenge: In developing regions worldwide, millions of people die annually because of lack of affordable diagnostic technology, poor capacity to maintain equipment or ineffective systems level public health policy.

Innovation: Zaman’s Laboratory for Engineering Education and Development (LEED) has developed a cell phone and solar-powered pulse oximeter and is working on other low-cost innovative solutions.

That Muhammad Zaman became a professor is no surprise.

“I hail from a family where academics were valued and from a very early age, I thought about a career in research,” says Zaman. “My father was a vice chancellor, my mother a teacher, and my brother is on the faculty at Princeton.”

Zaman received his undergraduate degree in physics and chemistry at Arkansas Tech and his PhD at the University of Chicago as a Burroughs-Wellcome Fellow in physical chemistry. He was a Herman and Margaret Sokol Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellow from 2003-2006 at MIT and the Whitehead Institute.

Zaman moved south to join the faculty at the University of Texas, Austin, but an interest in medical work brought him to Boston University where, in 2009, he joined the faculty of the biomedical engineering department—one of the top BME programs in the country. His focus was mostly on cancer, but he also wanted to address developing technologies in public health. About the same time, BU was launching a global health program on campus and Zaman used that opportunity to aggressively push into the area of engineering and public health.

“My goal is to interface global health and technology with a bottoms-up approach, motivating people to solve their own problems,” says Zaman.

Boston University has had a long relationship with politically stable Zambia, which provided Zaman an ideal situation in which to work. He saw tremendous opportunity and growth in devices/technology solutions and diagnostics that would be applicable in impoverished, resource-limited environments.

“So much money and equipment is donated every year, but it ends up not being used because no one knows how to use it,” says Zaman. “We need to build up engineering capacity to develop new solutions and rapid diagnostics.”

Utilizing a fellowship award, he established the Laboratory for Engineering Education and Development (LEED), which prepares engineering students for challenges and opportunities in global health by integrating engineering with global health problems. LEED strives to utilize engineering concepts and methods to enable individuals in developing countries to break away from the donor-recipient cycle and participate actively in developing innovative solutions to challenges in public health. The LEED lab recently won an award at BU for developing the solar-powered pulse oximeter, a tool that was cheap and that worked in resource limited regions.

Pulse oximetry is the standard clinical method for monitoring patients’ blood oxygen saturation and pulse rates, yet it is not easily available in low-resource settings. The under-five child mortality rate in Sub-Saharan Africa is 142 per 1000 live births with acute respiratory infections being one of the leading causes of deaths. Pulse oximetry has the potential to indicate various hypoxemic conditions before the onset of apparent signs and symptoms including pneumonia and other acute respiratory infections, neonatal illness, particularly sepsis and low birth weight in children. LEED built the low-cost, highly robust, user-friendly, solar-powered pulse oximeter and is in the process of field-testing for distribution to the global market.

Zaman has received numerous teaching awards, including from the American Society for Engineering Education and the University of Texas, as well as research awards, such as the FEBS Young Investigator Award in Matrix Biology, and the BU College of Engineering Early Career Research Excellence Award. The week we spoke with Dr. Zaman, he was named to the technical committee of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

He was recently selected as one of 53 innovative early-career educators to participate in the National Academy of Engineering’s Frontiers of Education (FOEE) symposium. The symposium invited top young engineering educators across all engineering disciplines that have made a contribution to improving engineering in this country, with a view towards improving the US engineering sector. Zaman also organized and chaired a first-ever BME summit in Zambia that was focused on creating a culture of innovation and education and research in biomedical engineering. The summit got wide coverage from local media and has led to the University of Zambia actively working to create a biomedical engineering degree program. See article in The Post Online, Zambia.

Professor Zaman’s advice to students at any level is to be creative. “Think outside the box and be terrain ready,” he says. “Befriend a policy maker or economist. At the end of the day these problems are so complex, if you only look at it with one set of glasses; you will never come up with a solution.“


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