Think Global, Learn Local: The Importance of Global Health Education

Rosalyn E. Plotzker, MD


January 09, 2017

All global health curricula have a few common denominators. They educate via a combination of didactics, mentorship, research, and international electives that have a clinical component. And, as mentioned, they recognize the vast range of factors that affect the collective health of our ever-shrinking world.

Epidemiology, biostatistics, and infections are straightforward enough. Beyond those, aspiring global health experts must also appreciate the advent of increasingly violent political conflicts. They must understand principles of human migration. They must recognize that the quality of governance, the distribution of political power, and allocation of resources are all direct contributors to population health; they always have been and always will be.

Finally, they must address the health of our shared planet. The human health consequences of our environment are not limited to regional famines or natural disasters. The health of individuals, as well as the societies they create, is intimately entwined with the quality of the shared air we breathe, the shared water we drink, and the soil in which our food is rooted.

Dr. Peter Bell is the executive dean of clinical sciences at the American University of Antigua College of Medicine and vice president of its global education program. The program's Global Health MD track operates in conjunction with Florida International University. As delineated on its website, "The purpose of the AUA-FIU Global Health Track is to support and guide students in developing expertise in global health issues with the goal of subsequent career involvement involving patient care, service, policy making, research and education at a global level."

The University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Medicine Global Health Track similarly recognizes the aspects of global health care that extend beyond the health facility. "Recognizing that true competence in global health requires more than clinical skill, the Global Health Track curriculum draws upon disciplines throughout the University and exposes students to other critical fields including epidemiology, biostatistics, economics, sociology, anthropology, law, ethics, and human rights." George Washington University's medical school also has a global health track, which features an interdisciplinary curriculum.


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