Engaging in a world without borders  pg. 2

A second reason for Vanderbilt’s engagement in global health is that American industry and commerce is now operating in a global marketplace, surely a permanent shift. On a December 2005 flight to Beijing, I sat next to an employee of a Tennessee firm whose technical-support business to assist steel-making in China now rivals business done within the United States.

A symbol of global health: insecticide-treated bed nets, like the one opened over this child's bed in Tanzania.  "It's a marvelous appropriate technology for resource-limited settings," Sten Vermund, M.D., Ph.D., who directs the Institute for Global Health at Vanderbilt.
Photo by Hugo Jaeggi for the Swiss Tropical Institude in Basel, Switzerland
The Vanderbilt Traveler’s Clinic serves hundreds of travelers going to developing countries for mission work, business, research, adoption, humanitarian relief or tourism. A global awareness of malaria, yellow fever, influenza, and many other diseases helps keep American travelers and military personnel healthy.

A third reason for us to care about the global health agenda is the fact that we rely on our tropical and global health experts to address local emergencies and those of expatriate Americans, including diplomats, missionaries, business persons, military employees and many others.

West Nile virus, avian influenza (“bird flu”), HIV/AIDS, imported malaria near airports, the threat of dengue fever, and other emerging infectious diseases threaten U.S. citizens who may never leave their home towns. We need our global health experts to anticipate, prevent, and confront these threats.

The U.S. military has been a fount of tropical disease expertise; I have just spent a year on an Institute of Medicine committee studying the infectious disease problems of returning troops and veterans of the Gulf War (Kuwait), Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), and Operation Iraqi Freedom (current war). Bullets and bombs are not the only threats to American servicemen and women overseas and veterans returning home.

Global health experiences also can be transformative for the next generation of American physicians. Some of my former medical students returned from abroad to take up similar challenges in this country: delivering health services to remote Inuit communities in Alaska; practicing in a rural hospital in the mountains of Puerto Rico; joining the Indian Health Service Corps in the Four Corners area of the Southwest; and working in Appalachia, Alabama’s Black Belt region and the Mississippi Delta.

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