Roots of Global Health, Interdisciplinary Scholarship Are Found in Africa

Tuesday, July 5, 2011 - 10:45am
KCMC medical education

By Michael Merson
Director of the Duke Global Health Institute

July 7, 2011 will mark the first time a Duke University President has ever traveled to Africa while in office.  You might ask why this is important since people travel to Africa every day.  Here’s one of the reasons it is important: There’s no better place than Africa to see Duke’s three core themes: interdisciplinarity, internationalization and knowledge in service to society- in action.

Each year, dozens of Duke students spend time in African countries, whether through the Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI), DukeEngage, Study Abroad or the myriad other programs offered on campus. In addition, Duke faculty are conducting tens of millions of dollars in research and training projects in at least ten African countries. For example, the Center for HIV-AIDS Vaccine Immunology (CHAVI) is seeking to find a vaccine to prevent HIV infection; the Divinity School is in search of truth and reconciliation; and DGHI is working to strengthen the training at medical schools in Tanzania. An interdisciplinary team of leaders led by Ian Baucom at the Franklin Humanities Institute have also been working on a proposal for a university-wide Africa Initiative. We plan to launch this early in the 2011-12 academic year.

President and Mrs. Brodhead will see Duke in action when they travel to Tanzania and Uganda.  Over the six days, the President will see projects and faculty from eight Duke Schools.  He’ll meet a range of students, including undergraduates, graduate students and medical students as well as global health residents.  He’ll see firsthand the ways in which Duke is partnering with governments, universities, health care staff, nongovernmental organizations, community groups. and the Church. And no doubt he’ll be welcomed and inspired by the people of Moshi and Kampala, as both are places of immense beauty paired with extraordinary need and opportunity.

Duke’s presence in Africa is long-standing, particularly in Tanzania. My hope is that this visit will reaffirm Duke’s commitment to strengthening its collaboration with African institutions, lead to new research initiatives and exchanges of faculty and students that connect Duke with the African