VCU Global Health Symposium Promotes Awareness, Collaboration, International Partnerships


VCU Global Health Symposium Promotes Awareness, Collaboration, International Partnerships

By: V. Renee Russell
Global Education Office
(804) 828-3636

Richmond, VA (April 29, 2013) — Building awareness and developing opportunities for collaboration was the theme of the VCU Global Health Symposium on Apr. 27 when more than 60 students, faculty and staff gathered at the Hermes L. Kontos Medical Science Building to engage in discussion about international outreach focused on improving health outcomes around the globe.

The symposium aimed to inform the university community about current global health projects at VCU, provide networking opportunities, and establish a framework for future collaboration.

"It's important to have this kind of gathering so we can all gain greater awareness about what's happening at our own university across units," said Steve Crossman, M.D., director of medical student education programs in the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health at the VCU School of Medicine and organizer of the event. "There are so many individuals working on amazing projects around the university and this kind of symposium helps everyone learn about that. Once we are aware of what each other is doing, we can build communication, collaboration, learn from each other and improve all of what we do."

Sponsored by the VCU's College of Humanities and Sciences, Global Education Office, Office of Research, School of Dentistry and School of Medicine, the symposium spotlighted a wide range of projects and poster presentations from a variety of disciplines. "Increasingly, we are aware that making a real impact on health and wellbeing in communities both here and abroad requires a broad and diverse team," said R. McKenna Brown, executive director of the VCU Global Education Office. "It's exciting to provide a venue in which students from different disciplines can find productive ways to collaborate."

The symposium showcased projects being conducted in local communities and at the national level around the globe. Projects in local communities included a skin cancer prevention program in Peru, water filtration program in Honduras, and dental clinic in Jamaica. National scale projects included the national program for prevention of rheumatic fever in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, national trauma system development in Ecuador, medical student psychiatry education in India, and the use of simulation technology in medical education in Poland.

In addition to sharing details of current projects, presenters discussed the advanced training that is necessary for students and faculty to receive in order to ensure cultural competency and ethics awareness when working in foreign nations. Presenters also expressed the importance of support at the department, university, and U.S. national levels to ensure the longevity and sustainability of these projects.

Jerome Strauss, III, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the VCU School of Medicine also addressed the importance of sustainability in his plenary session remarks. "It is important to establish a partnership with individuals who live and work in the communities in which the research is being conducted," he said. "Without a partnership, it is very unlikely that these projects will be sustainable."

Strauss encouraged the group to take advantage of collaboration opportunities with medical professionals who have been trained in the U.S. and returned to their home countries, the increased access to the internet in developing nations, and novel uses of smart technology. "What we do outside of the United States may very well have great relevance to our own health care systems," he said.

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