When the Committee on International Health held its annual symposium in early October, the events of September 11 and their implications for global stability were less than a month old. The committee, however, reaffirmed its commitment to international health research. “Our program of international activities continues without interruption,” said Curtis L. Patton, Ph.D., director of the international fellowship program that sends students around the world. “Is the message clear?”
Last summer 20 students who had received Downs International Health Travel Fellowships or other funding traveled to 16 countries to conduct research on topics including the integration of traditional and Western medicine in treating pediatric cancer patients in Taiwan, birth practices in Ghana and HIV risk among abused women in South Africa.
Three students were asked to make oral presentations of their work, said committee member Serap Aksoy, Ph.D., associate professor in the division of epidemiology of microbial diseases, because their topics reflect the diversity of projects the committee considers for funding. Medical student Timothy J. Henrich explored causes of viral encephalitis in Thailand and tried to find links between the epidemiology and the environment. Maya Nambisan, a public health student, studied the population genetics of the tsetse fly, in search of a subspecies that may be the main vector for sleeping sickness. And Susan E. Martinson, a nursing student, studied maternal mortality in a rural section of Haiti.
At the symposium Byron Waksman, M.D., a founding member of the Committee on International Health, former professor and chair of microbiology, was awarded an honorary Downs fellowship by the committee for his contributions to the fellowship program and international health. “I think all of you who have gone in the direction of international health have chosen a very exciting and interesting future,” Waksman said, as he accepted the award.