The new Yale Institute for Global Health (YIGH), approved by the Yale Corporation on Dec. 8, further advances President Salovey’s goal for the university to have a greater impact on complex international issues. Led by the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health, YIGH is a university-wide effort to address global health issues, and will serve as the focal point for research, education, and engagement with global partners to improve the health of individuals and populations worldwide.
“It is critical for Yale to have a substantial role in addressing health problems that face populations around the globe, including in the United States,” said Ann Kurth, dean of the Yale School of Nursing. “We want to harvest all the talent and the distinct assets we have across the university, so we no longer work in a distributed way but with a more cohesive, interdisciplinary approach to make a deeper impact with our global initiatives. No one discipline can solve global health problems. YIGH will provide a catalyzing center for these collaborations.”
The institute will harness efforts among the health sciences and other parts of the university to address global challenges such as pandemic preparedness, refugee health, urbanization, and climate change and health. The health sciences schools will reach out to recruit experts from the Schools of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Law, and Management, among others, to operationalize the necessary interdisciplinary agenda.
“With the arrival of two new deans — Drs. Kurth and Vermund — who bring a wealth of expertise, matched with intense interest from our faculty to become more involved in global health programs, this is the moment to build an organizing entity like YIGH,” said Pericles Lewis, vice president for global strategy and deputy provost for international affairs.
During presentations to university faculty, Yale deans Sten Vermund of the School of Public Health and Kurth outlined plans to identify and assess areas of global research excellence that could be supported and leveraged for impact. YIGH leadership plan to continue to meet with faculty from around campus to further define priority areas and plans that will help Yale expand its global health research portfolio and set priorities for concentrated research efforts.
Through YIGH, collaborations will be initiated across schools to complement areas of strength and add support to emerging issues. Current programs across the university address infectious diseases, maternal and childhood health, non-communicable diseases, health systems and research capacity, and more. Programs include the Primary Health Care Transformation Initiative funded by the Gates Foundation in Ethiopia; the Eastern Caribbean Health Outcomes and Research Network; Global Health Justice Partnership; the Yale Network for Global Non-Communicable Diseases; and the recent expansion of a program to strengthen medical education and health management in Liberia.
“These programs are led by talented faculty, but we have learned that health initiatives are not as well connected across the university as they could be,” explained Vermund. “Yale has examples of amazing work being done in multiple schools from which the experience, expertise, and findings can be harnessed and further developed within larger-scale, higher-impact, sustainable global partnerships.”
YIGH will also work to enhance research and collaborations with existing Yale centers that address global health issues, including refugee and immigrant welfare.
“If we have projects in Uganda, then there is a network of people who have already dealt with the many administrative issues associated with in-country work, and can make it easier for the next person to learn from their experiences through this center of coordination,” said Lewis. “We don’t need to make the same mistakes — collaboration will make projects less-time consuming by learning from each other to make work more effective.”
Don Filer, executive director of the Office of International Affairs, agreed: “We have 15 years of substantial experience facilitating Yale programs all over the world — navigating legal, financial, and human resource issues, and we can help faculty in this aspect so they can focus on their research, science and clinical work.”
As a central resource for students interested in taking part in global health educational programs at the university, in its second phase YIGH will create strong linkages to the Global Health Scholars program in Yale College, and will work to integrate and enhance global health curricula in the health science schools.
“Our early-career faculty need more mentorship and research opportunities, and we see incredible interest from our students in global health issues,” said Robert Rohrbaugh, director of the Office of International Medical Student Education at the Yale School of Medicine. “These talented young people are looking for roles to play — YIGH can help find those roles by facilitating contacts and helping them apply for and secure funding.”
A search is already underway for a faculty director. YIGH is prepared to start working immediately to improve health and accelerate health equity for people worldwide. YIGH is launching a mentorship program to provide consultation to faculty who are developing new grant opportunities or exploring potential collaborations with other faculty based on geographic or specific area interests, and will also award seed grants for faculty who are exploring new research opportunities.
“In the current climate where funding is tight, collaboration is critical,” said Kurth. “Yale has the history and alumni around the world to help us attain larger goals and we need to harness these resources.”
The hope for YIGH is to not only serve as a central clearinghouse of global health opportunities and educational activities, but also, eventually, work to better integrate and enhance global health curricula in the health science schools, said Lewis. “Global health is an area in which Yale wants to pursue greater leadership, and I think YIGH has the potential to do great things here and around the world.”