The Schools of Medicine, Public Health, and Nursing have come together to launch the Yale Institute for Global Health (YIGH), a university-wide effort that will address worldwide health issues. The initial focus of YIGH will be on research aimed at improving the health of individuals and populations around the world.
The creation of YIGH reflects a growing interest by students, faculty, and advanced trainees across the university in conducting global health research, along with the need for a centralized resource for faculty to collaborate on these projects. The recent arrivals of Sten H. Vermund, M.D., Ph.D., dean and Anna M.R. Lauder Professor of Public Health, and professor of epidemiology (microbial diseases) and of pediatrics; and of Ann E. Kurth, Ph.D., C.N.M., M.P.H., dean and Linda Koch Lorimer Professor of Nursing—both of whom bring a wealth of expertise in global health research—were another driving factor.
“There are complicated regulatory, legal, and logistical challenges to doing research in international locations,” says Robert M. Rohrbaugh, M.D., professor of psychiatry and director of the Office of International Medical Student Education at the School of Medicine, where more than 40 faculty members conduct global health research. “A centralized group with this type of expertise is helpful, especially for junior faculty.”
“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,” says Vermund. Current programs across the university address such areas as infectious diseases, maternal and childhood health, noncommunicable diseases, and health systems and research capacity. YIGH will build upon this foundation to address such global challenges as pandemic preparedness, refugee health, urbanization, and climate change and health. Researchers at the health sciences schools will collaborate with experts from the Schools of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Law, and Management to expand the institute’s interdisciplinary agenda.
It is a sign of increasing demand for what YIGH plans to do that about a third of each year’s School of Medicine class travels abroad for an international clinical elective. Rohrbaugh notes that many of these students also want experience conducting research in international settings; one challenge this trend presents has been student access to mentors. By bolstering opportunities for international projects, YIGH is expected to develop new mentorship capacity to support student research at the health professions schools and across the university.
A search is underway for a faculty director and YIGH is already ramping up its activities. Initiatives include a program to provide consultation to faculty who are developing new grant proposals or exploring potential collaborations based on geographic or topical areas of interest, and seed grants for faculty to pursue new research opportunities.
“We want to harvest all the talent and the distinct assets we have across the university, to make a deeper impact with our global initiatives,” says Kurth. “YIGH will provide a catalyzing center for these collaborations.”