What Global Health Means to Dell Med

As the future of medical education, care and research takes shape at Dell Medical School, we are uniquely poised to improve health for poor and vulnerable populations around the globe. Through the school’s Division of Global Health, we have the opportunity and responsibility to tackle the world’s toughest global health challenges as part of our work to “rethink everything” — to revolutionize how people get and stay healthy.

Defining Global Health

According to a consensus definition published in The Lancet, global health is an academic discipline that is “an area for study, research and practice that places a priority on improving health and achieving equity in health for all people worldwide. Global health emphasizes transnational health issues, determinants and solutions; involves many disciplines within and beyond health sciences and promotes interdisciplinary collaboration; and is a synthesis of population-based prevention with individual-level clinical care.”

This definition makes it clear that:

  • Global health is about solving problems and providing services, in clinics and in communities, wherever inequities exist in the world.
  • Global health includes sub-Saharan Africa and Austin, Texas.
  • Global health is interdisciplinary and collaborative — more “we” and less “us/them.”
  • Global health is comprehensive, treating disease by improving access to care and promoting health by addressing the root social and economic causes of injustice.

Why Global Health?

Dell Medical School is a public institution, built to educate physician leaders while rethinking the role of academic medicine in improving health. Created by an unprecedented investment from Travis County taxpayers, the school is uniquely focused on making Austin and Travis County a model healthy community. How does a global health program fit into this mission?

A global health perspective plays a key role in our work. Ebola and Zika know no borders, and neither do health inequities. Let’s look at sub-Saharan Africa and Austin as examples. Poverty in sub-Saharan Africa drives poor health outcomes — and in Austin, you’re likely to die 10 years earlier if you’re in the bottom percentile of wealth compared to the top percentile. Global health work equips students to address such health disparities as they become leaders in our globalized world.

The practice of global health embodies the principles of population health, taking responsibility for the health of whole communities and working to prevent disease by addressing the social injustices at the root of health inequities. And because global health works explicitly on behalf of the poor and the vulnerable, often in resource-constrained settings, providing high quality, cost-effective care is vital. This dual focus on population health and value-based care gives us the tremendous opportunity for reciprocal innovation, applying lessons learned globally to improve health and lower costs of care right here in Austin.

Dell Med students are eager to engage in global health. In a recent survey, 58 percent of our current students responded that they want to do a global health rotation while in medical school. More than a third of the first-year class earned credit in the “Foundations of Global Health” enrichment elective I offered last semester. The upshot of this interest is promising. Global health engagement fosters humility, cultural competence and respect. And data suggests that medical students who participate in global health experiences during their training are more likely to go into primary care, consider costs when making treatment choices and care for the underserved in their future careers. These are Dell Med values indeed!

Our Work

The Division of Global Health in the Department of Population Health at Dell Med will leverage the trifold academic mission of service, education and research to improve health outcomes and promote health equity for poor and vulnerable populations globally.

Our current efforts include:

  • Working with academic partners in Kenya and seeking a medical school partner in México.
  • Cultivating ways to engage a vibrant group of faculty who will work with our partners in host countries and translate global ideas to local solutions here in Austin.
  • Partnering with the International Office at UT Austin to advance cross-campus collaborations in global health.
  • Training medical students, residents and graduate students to be leaders in global health delivery, research, education and policy.

Exciting times ahead! Stay tuned to my blog for more details, and please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or ideas!

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