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Expanding Global Health Opportunities at MUSC

Global health surgery
Physicians at the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute conduct a cardiac procedure.

Global health refers to health issues that transcend national boundaries. As the world population becomes more mobile and diverse, maintaining a healthy domestic population becomes increasingly challenging and requires that all health care providers have greater knowledge of diseases that have typically occurred in remote geographical regions.

 

In recent years, the Division of Infectious Diseases within the Department of Medicine has made global health a priority by implementing a number of initiatives dedicated to reducing health disparities in South Carolina and around the world. Leading the charge is Susan Dorman, M.D., a pioneer in the field who was recruited to MUSC from Johns Hopkins University in 2017 to strengthen and expand the Infectious Diseases Global Health program.

This past year, under Dr. Dorman’s leadership, the Division of Infectious Diseases partnered with Faculty Director Michael Sweat, Ph.D., and Executive Director Kathleen Ellis of the MUSC Center for Global Health (CGH), to launch a new global health initiative. CGH is a university-wide initiative to advance MUSC’s efforts to improve health locally and around the world through research, education and training, and service. CGH does this through a number of mechanisms including a Faculty Pilot Project Grant program, a Trainee Global Health Travel Grant program, and a Certificate Program in Global Health.

Through the Division’s new initiative with the CGH, Dr. Dorman is working to expand the infectious diseases research portfolio related to global health, with initial emphasis on tuberculosis as well as Divisional strengths of HIV, infection control, and antimicrobial resistance. The emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance is considered a global threat. In May 2015, the World Health Organization endorsed a global action plan to tackle this crisis, and in the United States, its importance has been demonstrated by a presidential executive order, a national strategy, and NIH funding.

Another focus of the Division’s collaborative effort with the CGH is the expansion of international research and clinical opportunities for MUSC trainees. This includes work through the Global Health Curriculum Planning Committee to develop a new medical student Global Health Flex Track. Students who choose this option will take a deep dive into global health topics and apply their learning in research that focuses on health outcomes around the globe and in South Carolina. Students are also eligible to apply for the global health travel scholarships that the college provides for rotations in the fourth year.

Now more than ever, students pursuing a career in health care are looking for rotations or experiences in developing countries that allow them to interact with other health systems. At MUSC, more than 100 students travel abroad annually – whether through participation in faculty-led research, clinical electives, or service learning. The MUSC Center for Global Health helps facilitate many of those experiences, working with students to identify sites and projects and evaluate them for their safety, academic programming, and ethical engagement in local health settings.

In addition to enhancing clinical and scholarly work, surveys have shown that many resident physicians select their training program at least partly based on availability of global health training opportunities,” says Dr. Dorman. “And trainees who participate in international clinical rotations are more likely to later practice medicine among underserved and multicultural populations in the United States.”

As the recipient of an NIH K24 mid-career investigator award, Dr. Dorman provides valuable mentorship for trainees who are interested in pursuing related global health training, especially in research fields. The dual objectives, especially with reference to fellows and junior faculty, are to foster the development of clinicians and investigators whose professional activities incorporate the global health concepts of disparity reduction and collaborative improvement of community health.

“At its core, global health requires a multidisciplinary approach,” says Dorman. Looking ahead, she plans to work with training program directors in various disciplines to establish expanded global health opportunities for residents and fellows.

“It is an exciting time to be working in global health at MUSC,” says Dorman. “There are many opportunities for growth and we’re on an outstanding trajectory.”