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Making an Impact Near and Far
photoSchool Renews Commitment to Global Health for a New Generation of Students Global health, according to Bret Nicks, MD, is less about the globe than it is about people, wherever they may be.

“Global health doesn’t have boundaries,” says Nicks, the School of Medicine’s first associate dean for global health, who is leading an effort to reinvigorate outreach, education and training at the school, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and abroad.

“You can have a global health experience anywhere—in western North Carolina, east Winston-Salem or East Africa.”

His own international experiences as an emergency medicine physician have convinced Nicks that understanding and participating in global health is critical to the school’s future and its students.

“A lot of people hear the term global health and think of infectious diseases or tropical medicine,” he says. “But global health is truly no longer separable from public health. National borders have dissipated, creating a paradigm shift in disease exposure and impact.”

Reviving a Tradition
photoConcern for global health has been a core part of the school since its founding in 1902. School leaders wanted to train physicians who had a faith-based calling to work with and train future physicians throughout the world.

Over the decades, alumni and faculty founded hospitals and clinical training programs in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere. According to Nicks, Wake Forest once ranked among the top institutions in the nation for sending well-trained physicians to work in global health settings, thanks to faith-based medical outreach.

That was more than a generation ago. Over time, despite ongoing global health activity, the institution’s momentum in global health slowed. Nicks wants to reinvent that tradition for the 21st century.

Renewing the Global Commitment
The school’s renewed emphasis began in 2010 with the development of an institutional Global Health Advisory Committee of faculty, residents and medical students. The Office of Global Health was launched in October 2010, under Nicks’ leadership and with Lynn Snyder as program coordinator.

The Office of Global Health serves as the central gathering point for resources, service opportunities and education. The office expanded on Oct. 1, when Avi Shetty, MD, professor of pediatrics, began duties as director of global health education, thanks to the generous contributions of the Broyhill Family Foundation.

Shetty’s appointment will help address one goal: furthering the educational offerings for students, residents, faculty and staff at Wake Forest. As a strategic position for the Office of Global Health, it provides much-needed support for many ongoing initiatives, such as:

  • Integrating global health concepts into the core curriculum
  • Increasing experiential opportunities for students, residents and faculty in rural North Carolina and abroad
  • Expanding research and grant funding
  • Building a core faculty dedicated to global health
  • Developing certificate and degree programs in global health
  • Growing cooperative partner-affiliate hospitals and medical schools

Also new is a Global Health Education Series. The first presentations have covered vaccinations, the history of global health (presented by Timothy Pennell, MD ’60) and human trafficking.

The office also plans to introduce a service arm called Wake Works to help coordinate all global health service outreach projects across the Medical Center. Nicks wants to expand opportunities for all who are interested—health care providers, staff, alumni—on the medical school campus and even faculty and students on the Reynolda campus of Wake Forest University.

“Wake Forest has incredible faculty involved in many amazing global health activities, but we have lacked a system-based approach or clear dissemination of these activities. We want to grow the value of what Wake Forest is and what it means outside our walls,” Nicks says.

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