From The President Print

The Epicenter of Global Health

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President Mark A. Emmert, '75. Photo by Mel Curtis.
Ever since we got the great news about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s extraordinary gift to the UW to found the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the air around Montlake has been full of fresh possibility. The institute will provide the information needed to guide global health efforts so that they have the best possible impact. We are all tremendously excited about this gift and what it means to the University, our region and the world (see “Strong Medicine,” pages 18–23).

So what exactly does this gift mean? First, it means that the University can recruit a world-renowned expert like Chris Murray to lead the institute and that we can give him and his staff the support they need to be successful. It means that Seattle has become home to yet another valuable resource for global health. It means that leaders, policymakers, researchers and others will have a much stronger foundation of independent, valid evidence to use to make decisions about where health resources are allocated. It means that our students will have an opportunity to study and conduct research beside some of the most talented and passionate professors in the world. And most importantly, because more and better information will be available, it means that countless lives could be saved.

Getting health resources where they are most needed and where they will be most effective are issues that affect all of us. While the University and especially our Department of Global Health are fully committed to helping improve the health of underserved populations around the world, we also are very mindful of what’s going on in our own backyard.

With support from the state, the UW is focusing new attention on how health resources are utilized here at home. As health care costs continue to rise rapidly, it is important to know where that money is going. Is it going where it will have the greatest impact? Is it flowing into the treatments that show the most promise? And how do we know which treatments are most effective? These are the kinds of questions we seek to answer.  

The UW has long been a linchpin of our region’s health care. Indeed, with the wealth of talent and the exceptional level of interdisciplinary collaboration that we have at the University, we are in a position to make some truly remarkable contributions not just to health in the Pacific Northwest, but to the health of the world. To see the full extent of what can be accomplished by our region in the realm of global health, however, you have to look beyond just the University of Washington.

Think about the extensive collection of health organizations and nonprofits found in the Puget Sound area—the Gates Foundation, PATH, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the strong biotech community, among others. Each of these on its own can make a big difference to global health efforts. Together, there is no reason why we cannot make Seattle and the state of Washington the epicenter of global health research, policy and discussion for the entire planet.  

Due in large part to the widespread attention that the Gates Foundation has brought to such issues as eradicating malaria, the rest of the world already is beginning to take note that Seattle is a committed player in the global health arena. But there’s more that we can do.

Imagine a building—a building in the heart of all these great nonprofits that Seattle has to offer. Now imagine what would happen if that building were made available to any nonprofit on Earth that wanted to relocate here to be close to the excellent global health expertise found in our region. It would be a good thing for the state of Washington. It would be an extraordinary thing for the health of people around the world.

It’s an inspiring vision, and a doable one. The UW is ready to do its part to make it happen.

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MARK EMMERT, '75, President