UW News

November 18, 2004

New Global Health Department proposed

Plans to create a new UW Department of Global Health, with shared governance between the School of Medicine and the School of Public Health and Community Medicine, were announced last week in a memo from Dr. Paul Ramsey, vice president for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, and Dr. Pat Wahl, dean of the School of Public Health and Community Medicine.

Dr. Bruder Stapleton, chair of the School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics, has been named to lead an advisory committee that will move the proposal forward, with a timetable to obtain approval of the UW Board of Regents and launch the department in time for the beginning of the 2005-2006 academic year.

Stapleton said that he has already talked with many people who are interested in development of the new department. “I think that’s a measure of the energy that seems to be coming together for this proposal,” he said. “The advisory committee wants to consult widely with interested people within the two schools, and also from multiple other schools and colleges around campus.”

He said that the committee would first be defining the mission and an overall vision for the new department, and then moving forward to begin recruitment for the first chair. “Ideally,” he said, “we would like to have a chair in time for that person to participate in establishing the strategic directions for the new department.”

Stapleton noted that establishing a new department in two schools was a complex organizational task, but that much of the groundwork had already been done by an earlier work group and by the two deans.

“Those of us working in international health are very excited about this,” said Dr. Steve Gloyd, director of the International Health Program in the School of Public Health. “We’ve been working on this for a long time, and it makes sense for these efforts to come together now. Seattle has become a hugely important center for global health over the past few years, with lots of energy and projects in several institutions.” In addition to the UW, those include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, the (PATH) Program for Appropriate Technology in Health and Puget Sound Partners for Global Health, a consortium.

Gloyd, with Dr. King Holmes, professor of medicine and epidemiology and director of the Center for AIDS and STDs, led the earlier task force on international health that developed a strategic plan for global health.

“A department of global health is a natural structural block in the University,” Gloyd said. “It will automatically raise the level of perceived importance and the level of stability, and it will also allow us to do many practical things, such as hiring faculty members, developing ongoing infrastructure and supporting students. We envision that the department can also be a base for an international medicine residency program in the future.”

While the timetable of establishing the new department by next fall may seem ambitious, Gloyd noted that much of the work will be pulling together and consolidating current resources, rather than starting from scratch.

Text of the memo, sent by Ramsey and Wahl on Nov. 9, is below:

We are pleased to announce that the School of Public Health and Community Medicine (SPHCM) and the School of Medicine (SOM) are embarking on a project to create a joint Department of Global Health. This new department would be modeled after the successful joint Department of Bioengineering of the School of Medicine and the College of Engineering.

This initiative has arisen out of the 2003 work of a task force chaired by Steve Gloyd and King Holmes. That group prepared a strategic plan for global health calling for a new way of organizing education and research that would integrate and coordinate global health activities across departments and schools. We have determined that a departmental structure would provide the optimal foundation to achieve that goal, providing opportunities for cooperation among the many existing global health programs in our two schools and a venue for establishing new programs in education, research and service.

This coordinated approach will build on themes that have emerged at the national level. The Institute of Medicine’s 2002 report entitled “Who Will Keep the Public Healthy” recommended that schools of public health and medicine provide more integrated educational experiences to their professional graduate students. A joint department is a creative opportunity to develop that type of educational model. It will help to meet the critical need that graduates working in global health have for training in both medicine and public health. This need is also evident in the United States as local health systems are faced with global health problems.

We are appointing an advisory committee, chaired by Bruder Stapleton, to steer the initial planning and development of the department. Over the next few months, the committee will work to define the recommended mission of the department and the scope of its programs, and will begin the search for the department’s initial chair. In meeting its charge, the committee will consult broadly with the academic leadership and faculty of our two schools, with academic leaders throughout the University, and with individuals from organizations with related missions. Our hope is to obtain approval of the Board of Regents in time to launch the department by the beginning of academic year 2005-2006.

A department of global health will be an important step in the evolution of the UW as a leader in global health research and education. We hope you share our excitement and enthusiasm for this new venture. Please do not hesitate to contact the committee chair if you would like to share your thoughts about this initiative with the committee.