Global Work at DUSON Continues to Soar

The Office of Global and Community Health Initiatives (OGACHI) began its mission to address health disparities locally and abroad six years ago and since that time has experienced steady recognition and growth. However, during the 2011-2012 academic years, the pace of growth seems to be reaching new heights with OGACHI reaping the benefits of seeds planted several years ago. Evidence of this acceleration is shown in our latest intention to work in Rwanda. Duke University School of Nursing (DUSON) through OGACHI (along with other US schools of nursing, medicine, dentistry, and public health) was invited to be part of a major Human Resources for Health project in Rwanda, resulting from a multi-year award to the Government of Rwanda by the US government. Duke was identified because of its stellar reputation as a nationally ranked, highly regarded, research intensive and academically excellent school of nursing with a recognized commitment to global health. The project is expected to begin in August, pending finalizing contractual agreements.

DUSON, through the leadership of OGACHI, is committed to global education, research, and service. Internal interest in global health is evident by the increased number of faculty becoming involved in collaborative international research and professional service. The appointment of a Director of International Research has evolved and enhanced opportunities for international partnerships, global research forums, and potential collaborative research projects, especially in China. The past year has also experienced a significant increase in long term international visitors, scholars, and post-docs, thus enriching the diversity and cosmopolitan profile of the DUSON community. Faculty, such as nurse practitioners, have made known their interest in partnering in developing countries building upon established relationships with nursing programs in African Universities to explore ways of enhancing primary care, particularly in rural areas which are most underserved. The potential impact of such involvement could shed important information on reducing health disparities in remote underserved areas. Several faculty have become OGACHI Faculty Affiliates (OFA), an interest group of faculty seeking involvement in global health research, education, or service. OGACHI supports OFAs by facilitating “global health dialogues,” providing access to global funding opportunities relative to their research interest, and linkages with the Duke Global Health Institute and other global health projects across the campus.

Student requests for global health experiences as part of their academic programs have shown a positive upturn in the number of students having cultural immersion experiences abroad, with an increased interest and participation rate among graduate students. We anticipate that a recent Board of Trustees action that allows students to cover course-related international travel under financial aid will increase the number of interested students, which will require expansion in the number of international sites. Currently, we have eight sites in seven countries.

Finally, the recent designation by the World Health Organization to proclaim the focus of World Health Day 2012 as Healthy Aging resulted in a special invitation to OGACHI to participate in the Pan American Health Organization’s planning for World Health Day in the Americas, the Caribbean, and Canada. The invitation was in recognition of OGACHI’s work over five years in the Caribbean, collaboratively developing a comprehensive community-based framework to promote healthy-active aging with Caribbean partners.

We consider these milestones as evidence of our movement in the right direction … a direction consistent with our own DUSON strategic plan, a direction in harmony with the trends in global development, and congruent with priorities set by various international health organizations. Being on the cusp of moving forward to a higher level of involvement and productivity is a tribute to the many local, domestic, and international partners who have joined with us in this exciting journey to make a positive difference in the conditions of health around the world.

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