The University of California is in the process of planning for the implementation of a degree-granting School of Global Health, which is expected to receive funding and begin recruiting faculty in May of 2009.
“My feeling is that this [school] will be the most connected and technically advanced communication system in the world,” said Dr. Michael Wilkes, professor of medicine at UC Davis. “Not only connecting the UCs, but also global centers on every continent. We’re really trying to make the UC a global thing.”
The 10 UC campuses are currently in the process of submitting proposals due in early September to host one of the six proposed Centers of Expertise that will be the physical basis of the school for administrative purposes and graduate education.
“The goal is a distributed school within the UC system that through research, training and outreach will contribute significantly to leadership, discovery and expertise in global health in the 21st century,” according to a pamphlet released by the planning committee.
The school will address global health challenges such as poverty-related health disparities and their socioeconomic determinants, pandemics and re-emerging infections, neglected diseases, chronic diseases, climate change, environmental degradation and health, food and water security and health migration, population movement and health, peace and security as well as disaster response.
“The university as a whole is one of the most prestigious in the world,” said Wilkes, who is co-chair of the taskforce charged with designing the school. “But if it remains isolated it risks being marginalized. UC needs to make substantial partnership, not just exchanges. This is first opportunity to do this at a global level.”
The school will offer a one year master’s degree program in global health and a two year master’s degree in science.
“We’re anticipating about half of students will be doctors or dentists or pharmacists,” Wilkes said of potential candidates for the school.
“In that way, it’s a lot like a school of public health,” Wilkes said. “Potential students will have to ask themselves, ‘Should I get a degree in public or global health?'”
Global health studies will differ substantially from public health, Wilkes added. They will be much more policy focused, and action oriented, with case-based learning and more of a business school approach.
“Global health touches our lives in so many ways, food imports immigration to the state, the world is much more connected than it’s ever been before. Global health is a serious issue and we want to be on the forefront,” Wilkes said.
The school’s primary focus will be conducting field work across the globe in countries plagued by serious health problems arising from malnutrition, poor sanitation and other factors which can be addressed through low-tech solutions and education.
Curriculum will focus on three broadly defined areas: research, outreach and delivery science.
UC Davis faculty are taking part in a series of four brown bag conferences to discuss Davis’s viability as a host for one of the Centers of Expertise.
“Davis is an ideal environment for this sort of thing,” said Jonna Mazet, a professor in the department of medicine and epidemiology at the Wildlife Health Center.
“We have human health expertise in the medical school combined with world class agricultural and veterinary schools,” said Mazet, who is currently involved in the planning.
Two more brown bag chats are planned, on July 23 and Aug. 5, before a day-long conference on Sept. 17 where UC Davis’ proposal to host a Center of Expertise will be finalized.
“The really exciting part about the Global Health program is the transdisciplinary aspect, bringing these world-renowned schools together, most schools don’t have the breadth that Davis has,” Mazet said.
The final selections on the placement of the Centers of Expertise will be made by an external advisory committee consisting of non-UC affiliated world-renowned scientists, including Jo Ivy Boufford, president of the New York Academy of Medicine, and Joy Phumaphi, vice president for human development at the World Bank.
“Each of the 10 UCs is like a silo,” Wilkes said. “So we have 10 different silos, and within each silo are sub-silos all working in their own little islands, and no one talks to each other,” Wilkes said.
“Problems in global health can’t be solved exclusively by scientists, and the goal of the school is to harness the power of these 10 silos and the wide range of expertise of the UCs collectively to more effectively address global health problems,” he said.
The idea is 18 months in planning, and is currently being funded by a grant from the UC Office of the President and supervised by the All Campus Planning Committee. The school is expected to begin operations in the 2009-2010 school year.
CHUCK HINRIKSSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.