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Population Health: UW & Aga Khan University partnership leads to research, learning, and health collaborations

The University of Washington and the Aga Khan University have partnered substantially over the past years to advance global population health and link their institutions. Through these collaborations, students, faculty, and researchers have benefited from the shared expertise and exchange in a range of areas and disciplines.

Read more about the history and impact of this partnership and the Office of Global Affairs and Global Innovation Fund’s involvement below:


“There were a lot of synergies between our two institutions not just in terms of our social justice missions, but around the values of what this partnership holds,” Farzana Karim-Haji, director of the Aga Khan University Partnerships Office, said. “The Population Health Initiative at UW draws parallels to AKDN’s Quality of Life Initiative, where both are focused on a holistic view of improving the overall human condition from a variety of aspects in health, education, poverty alleviation, climate change, etc.”

With online learning, a new approach yields global connections

Unexpected tools are enriching the UW online learning experience and helping students connect with complex issues like human rights. UW professors are finding creative ways to build community and share knowledge.

Paulina Andrews
Paulina Andrews ’20

Paulina Andrews ‘20 is aiming for a career advocating for persons with disabilities. Paulina jumps at every opportunity to deepen her understanding of human rights issues, including a UW Study Abroad program to Jamaica organized by Professor Stephen Meyers and Megan McCloskey, where she spent time in a deaf village and with local grassroots organizations, and internships at civil rights organizations.

Last spring, Paulina was in her final quarter at the UW and excited to begin a course called Genocide and the Law with Professor Rawan Arar. Like students all over the country, Paulina was forced by the pandemic to complete her coursework from home, via Zoom. “Professor Arar was upbeat and brought a lot of energy to the class,” Paulina remembers, “but she was also real about what we were all going through. That helped me a lot.”

Determined to keep her courses meaningful, Professor Arar re-envisioned the syllabi. She offered one pre-recorded lecture for students to engage with at their convenience. The other meeting became a live discussion section so students would have more opportunity for connection and to ask questions. “I live alone,” shares Paulina, “so class time was one of my only chances to talk to other people.”

Professor Arar asked students to share artwork and written reflections on the course materials. Some curated Spotify playlists with songs relating to class topics. They engaged in visual storytelling using Flipgrid. Paulina loved the variety presented by the new class structure. Of course, there was still a lot of reading. “But there were also movies to watch and podcasts to listen to. It was a break from the usual.”

“It’s hard to express certain things through words,” says Paulina. Creating art provided a new avenue for exploring the challenging topic of genocide. “Drawing was a refreshing way to interact with the material. It was a good way of dealing with a heavy topic and what we were all going through.”Paulina's aet

Paulina’s drawing, inspired by a woman who survived genocide in Cambodia, explores the theme of silence. “She was so mad inside but never said anything. If you cover up the left side of my drawing it looks peaceful. But when you look at the whole you see her real thoughts.”

With a teaching and curriculum award from the UW Global Innovation Fund, Professor Arar has brought even more hands-on learning to her fall quarter courses.

Professor Arar
Professor Arar

While studying occurrences of genocide around the world, the class will focus on knowledge production and the role of genocide museums as institutions that are established to reclaim contested stories and preserve a people’s history. Informed by class readings, students will develop an interview protocol and engage with survivors and the ancestors of survivors.

“With Global Innovation Fund support, I’m now able to add this engaging and experiential museum project to my online course,” shares Professor Arar. She’s also delighted to be sending some hands on materials to students via mail to create a more personal connection.  “Being on Zoom for 5+ hours is really hard. I want to make a personal connection and give them something to hold on to.”

Tackling COVID-19 by supporting the global vaccine “cold chain”

With funding support from the Office of Global Affairs and the Population Health Initiative, two UW researchers are supporting partners around the world in addressing the COVID-19 crisis.

When a vaccine is available, there will be massive immunization campaigns around the world to make sure that everyone is protected. Planning must begin now to ensure that proper logistical systems are in place to support this monumental effort.

For low-income countries, a significant concern is the capacity and quality of the vaccine “cold chain”. Cold storage must be available to keep vaccines safe until administered. National assessments of the vaccine cold chain are needed as well as information systems that allow real-time reporting of vaccine stocks during the campaign.

Richard Anderson and Waylon Brunette from the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering have built an app for that – and much more. Their work strengthens IT systems run by governments and the World Health Organization to support vaccine campaign logistics. Already up and running in Uganda, the tools will soon launch in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Boosting global health partnerships for Chinese universities

Supported by the Global Innovation Fund, a landmark symposium hosted by the UW last week brought together leaders and faculty from five Chinese universities, across the UW campus and the Seattle community. “Collaborating with Chinese colleagues is a tremendously high priority, both personally for faculty and institutionally here at UW,” said Judy Wasserheit, chair of the Department of Global Health and symposium co-chair.

Read more from the Department of Global Health…

Consul General of India, industry leaders engage together on campus

With support from the Global Innovation Fund, The South Asia Center and the Global Business Center are partnering to host a symposium, “US-India Economic Relations and the Contemporary Indian Economy” on campus. Ambassador Venkatesan Ashok, Consul General of India of San Francisco, as well as prominent members of the local community and UW faculty experts will address the group and engage in the symposium.

Event details

Friday, February 26, 2016
2:00-5:00 PM
Bank of America Executive Education Center, Douglas Forum
Symposium Agenda

Register to attend

Partnership sparks innovative solutions for clinical education

Every year, more than 30 UW Medicine residents journey 9,000 miles to Nairobi, Kenya. Working alongside Kenyan practitioners and students in conditions very different from those found in Seattle clinics and hospitals, they gain crucial skills and expand their clinical knowledge. They are part of CEPI, the Clinical Education Partnership initiative, an innovative global program improving healthcare in Kenya and the U.S.

A resident providing healthcare
A resident providing healthcare

A 25-year partnership between the University of Washington and University of Nairobi sparked this innovative initiative. CEPI connects medical residents across disciplines to create a teaching hospital. The UW is one of the first U.S. universities to maintain such a long-term relationship in Kenya, establishing capacity building and training for Kenyan and UW practitioners. “The problem with so much development work is that you just drop in, and that was great for a month or two months,” says Dr. Carey Farquhar, CEPI Director.

The Global Innovation Fund is helping to expand CEPI with a new partnership between the UW’s Schools of Nursing and Public Health, the University of Nairobi, and Naivasha District Hospital. The new initiative is led by Dr. Pamela Kohler, an assistant professor in nursing and public health. Her initiative is expanding CEPI to include nursing students and practitioners.

The team aims to partner UW nurses with graduate nursing students from a Kenyan university. UW students get multidisciplinary training, working with physicians and residents, and learn much from the Kenyan nurses. “In resource-limited settings [like Naivasha District Hospital], nurses are about 80 to 90 percent of the healthcare workforce,” says Kohler. “A nurse in a rural setting is going to do more than a nurse in a hospital where there are more physicians available. They see a lot and manage a lot.”

Naivasha District Hospital
Naivasha District Hospital

To maintain continuity in the CEPI partnership at Naivasha District Hospital, CEPI and UW Medicine have taken the unusual step of posting a full-time chief resident at the hospital. The chief supervises medical residents who come for four weeks to teach and live in Kenya. With someone on-site year-round to strategically plan and evaluate, uninterrupted by constant shifts in personnel, the program makes a lasting impact, says Farquhar. The addition of nursing students – with the help of the Global Innovation Fund – will amplify the UW’s impact.

Dr. Kristen Hosey, a clinical assistant professor in psychosocial community health, led the first group of nursing students to Kenya in summer 2015 as part of a faculty-led Exploration Seminar. Six graduate-level registered nurses from UW Seattle and Tacoma gained first-hand experience in Kenya, working alongside nurses, midwives, physicians, clinical officers and community health workers from Naivasha. They also engaged in quality improvement projects, program evaluations and health education campaigns with their local partners to address health and capacity needs in Naivasha.

“What we’re trying to do, and where nursing fits in, is give our [residents and students] the opportunity to see a wide range of clinical activities, but also be sure they are doing something useful,” says Farquhar. “I always said I’d never create a program that’ s just a medical tourism program. [CEPI] residents are able to give a lot back.”

UW and Kenyan partners
UW and Kenyan partners

The Global Innovation Fund supported a meeting between UW and Kenyan collaborators to work through complicated benefits and challenges related to this new, multidisciplinary global partnership. “It gives us the opportunity to bring everyone together in one room and think through issues with scope of practice and licensing, and what the role of the nurse looks like with a graduate student there,” says Kohler. The meeting builds on Farquhar and Hosey’s efforts, and aims to expand opportunities to University of Nairobi and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture & Technology nursing students and practitioners to participate in future CEPI partnerships.

CEPI residents also make a financial investment in the program, which is financed through grants and departments, and by the residents themselves. The program provides secure housing, transportation and cell phones to participants, but flights and daily expenses are out of pocket costs. “I would love to have a grant from a donor so that we could fund this without having to transfer the costs,” says Farquhar.

Kohler, Farquhar and Hosey say their close and lasting relationships with Kenyan partners are central to the program’s success. “For me it’s the people,” says Farquhar. “[They] are really motivated. They are well trained, educated, intelligent, have good ideas and can work with you on these problems. You can see the fruits of your labor.” Together, the UW and Kenyan partners are driven to improve health outcomes and improve clinical education – in Kenya and the U.S.

Learn more about the Global Innovation Fund and other global opportunities.

— Indra Ekmanis and Sara Stubbs, Office of Global Affairs