April 5, 2012

VU a leader in new global health training program

by Bill Snyder

The Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health (VIGH) has been named a lead institution in a federal program to support the training of the next generation of global health scientists.

The Fogarty Global Health Program for Fellows and Scholars, supported by the Fogarty International Center (FIC) of the National Institutes of Health, will provide about $20.3 million over the next five years to support 400 early-career health scientists on fellowships in 27 countries.

The training will be provided through five “consortia” of U.S. universities, one of which will be led by Vanderbilt. Each consortium will receive about $4 million over five years.

“We are forming a powerful network to produce a new generation of stellar researchers capable of working in the global arena,” said FIC director Roger Glass, M.D., Ph.D., whose daughter Nina graduated from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 2009.

The program will leverage “the considerable experience, relationships and infrastructure” that the 20 participating universities, including Vanderbilt, have built in developing countries to ensure that the fellows “are well-equipped to tackle the world’s most pressing health problems,” Glass said.

Vermund and Douglas Heimburger, M.D., professor of Medicine and associate VIGH director, are co-principal investigators of a consortium that includes Cornell, Duke and Emory universities.

The other consortia are led by the University of California, Berkeley; the UC Global Health Institute in San Francisco; the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; and the University of Washington, Seattle.

Most of the participants in the program will be post-doctoral fellows — early-career physicians, veterinarians, dentists and scientists.

They will receive highly mentored research experience at approximately 80 low-resource settings in maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

The new program, which is supported by several NIH institutes and other federal agencies, “provides an unmatched opportunity for medical scientists-in-training to obtain year-long, on-the-ground research experiences,” Vermund and Heimburger said in a statement.

Since 2004, FIC has supported more than 500 fellows and scholars for hands-on, clinical research training experiences in low- and middle-income countries through the NIH/Fogarty International Clinical Research Scholars and Fellows Program.

Vanderbilt served as the coordinating center for the program, which is ending in June.