UW Today

February 14, 2012

Global health a world-class program at UW, President Young says in speech

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

Amel Omer, a public health student from Sudan, photographs graduate student adviser Julie Burnett and Oninye Edeh, a fellow student from Nigeria at the Department of Global Health Open House.

Amel Omer, a public health student from Sudan, photographs graduate student adviser Julie Burnett and Oninye Edeh, a fellow student from Nigeria at the Department of Global Health Open House.Clare McLean

In President Michael Young’s short time at UW, he said one of the things he’s learned is how well the University organizes itself into groups that address large-scale societal and global problems.

“I frankly cant think of a larger challenge than trying to address imbalances in respect to the provision of health care around the world,” he said at the Department of Global Health Open House on January 17.

More than 125 guests toured the student space on lower campus. Luminaries lighted the walkway outside the historic brick Harris Hydraulics building, built in the 1920s to house the best hydraulics research facilities of any university in the United States at the time.

Guests included staff from PATH, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Public Health-Seattle King County and the Washington State Department of Health, as well as leaders from across campus.

The Department of Global Health founded five years ago, has grown explosively with more than 250 faculty, 400 graduate students and many more undergraduates. While part of the Department moved into two floors of the Ninth and Jefferson Building near Harborview in 2010, there was no central space on campus for global health students, faculty and staff until this building was renovated.

Now students have their own student lounge, kitchen and computer center with 24-hour access.

Onyinye Edeh, a first year masters of public health (MPH) student from Nigeria, said the building has allowed her to feel at ease because of the warmth she feels when she walks in the front door.

“Some of my most memorable moments thus far include walking down the hallway right after the walls had been decorated with pictures from student and faculty travels,” she said in her speech. “The global health department has been a home away from home for me.”

President Young said the new space is a” terrific opportunity” to deepen the connections between how students and faculty interact.

From left to right: Global Health Department Chair King Holmes, UW President Michael Young, External Advisory Chair William F. Foege, Global Health Department Vice Chair Judith Wasserheit, and Department Associate Chair for Education and Curriculum Stephen Gloyd celebrate the new global health student space on campus.

From left to right: Global Health Department Chair King Holmes, UW President Michael Young, External Advisory Chair William F. Foege, Global Health Department Vice Chair Judith Wasserheit, and Department Associate Chair for Education and Curriculum Stephen Gloyd celebrate the new global health student space on campus.Clare McLean

In the short time since the Department was founded, more than 150 global health programs have been established in the United States.

“Now everyone seems to be interested in it,” said William H. Foege, the chair of the Departments External Advisory Board, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who also played a pivotal role in the eradication of smallpox, and formerly a senior adviser to The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In a speech to attendees he said this is a sea change from when he started medical school at UW 55 years ago and couldnt find more than three faculty who cared about global health.

Today, he said, more and  people are looking at the world in a global perspective and changing their thinking from “I to we.” He said whether this mentality will be carried over to Wall Street bankers is yet to be seen, but students at the University of Washington are in a special place because the University cares about global health and so does the city.

“Its been said that genius is the ability to see ones field whole. I think there are more individuals and more groups who now see things whole—that they understand what globalization is all about. That we are all in this together. It makes a difference what we do.  So I think we have more and more people asking the question not what do I want but what do we need. The I to we is an important thing thats happening,” he said.

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