March 22, 2017

Faculty Gather to Explore Roadmap of Global Health Initiative

Collaborative, cross-campus efforts will be central to the success of Georgetown University’s Global Health Initiative (GHI) and should serve as guiding principles in steering the new initiative’s direction, faculty members recommended at a February 23 luncheon in Riggs Library.

Led by Executive Vice President for Health Sciences and Executive Dean of the School of Medicine Edward Healton and Vice President for Global Engagement Thomas Banchoff, planning for GHI began last November and has included consultations with more than 100 faculty and staff across all seven of Georgetown’s schools.

The luncheon event, which encouraged robust conversation and idea exploration among researchers, faculty, and core university leadership, highlighted some of the world’s most pervasive health challenges—from infectious disease to urbanization and climate change—and Georgetown’s role in addressing the interdisciplinary field of global health.

“We’ve come to know that scholarship is strengthened by collaboration,” Georgetown President John DeGioia said. “Our diverse community of researchers, practitioners, and students working to improve the health of people around the world is our greatest resource, and [GHI] will better enable us to reach across our campuses and create new opportunities for our community to come together to pursue effective responses to global health challenges.”

By connecting researchers, educators, students, think tanks, healthcare workers, international partners, and scholars working in a variety of fields, the new initiative will generate a network through which to form a deeper understanding of the possibilities of addressing global health challenges.

“The genesis of this effort…reflects not only the significant leadership of the [GHI] planning team, but also the role that our community—and especially each of you here today—can play in defining how universities and Georgetown, in particular, can respond to challenges like global health,” DeGioia said.

Several central questions guided the luncheon’s discussion: What additional steps could GHI take to strengthen the ability of Georgetown faculty to build a stronger global health community and collaborate more effectively on grants and projects? What global health subjects and topics should Georgetown focus upon? What issues play to our strengths?

Building a Robust Community

Faculty tend to be isolated in their work within departments, said Victoria Jennings, director and principal investigator of the Institute for Reproductive Health and professor of Georgetown’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. A thematic approach to initiative collaboration, she suggested, could group relevant faculty and partners and provide a topical platform for them to “come together around” in order to break the research-teaching divide.

Other suggested methods for building a stronger GHI community include creating a database of global health contacts, projects, and grant opportunities; maintaining regular communication among faculty, students, external partners, and leadership; establishing clear metrics and benchmarks for measuring success along the way; drawing from past initiatives and learning from missteps; and engaging students in research, courses, and other GHI programs.

Finding Core Focus Areas

Luncheon attendees concluded that, in addition to addressing global health topics that are directly related to medicine and research—from non-communicable and infectious diseases to pandemic preparedness—Georgetown’s GHI must also focus on how topics like ethics, migration, globalization, and government affect global health and impact how we address it.

Playing to Georgetown’s Strengths

DeGioia noted unique strengths of the university that he believes will propel the initiative, including faculty’s desire to collaborate and learn about each other’s work, partnerships with student programs and external institutions, and Georgetown’s guiding Jesuit values:

“Our community, because of our mission, our values, and our identity, is grounded in the commitment that what we learn, teach, and research is intimately connected to the world that we experience…and to the local and global context in which we pursue our work.”

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