KUMC's international outreach

August 23, 2013

Many of you know about my love for international work, and a few of you have even accompanied me on medical mission trips to places such as Uganda, Guatemala, Mali, the Philippines and Mexico. The first thing I did this year, before becoming Executive Vice Chancellor, was travel to Vellore, India. That's where Mani Mani, a professor emeritus in general surgery, created a scholarship to honor his mentor, Dr. David Robinson. Each year, students from our schools do a clinical rotation at the Christian Medical College, with its 2,800-bed hospital.

This year's Robinson Scholars, nursing students Kayla Benson, Kimberly Hall and Natalie Jordan, and School of Health Professions student Emily Waldo returned in early July from their six-week clinical rotation at Christian Medical College. Rick Hill, School of Health Professions, is currently on his rotation and will return Sept. 5. (Some of the 2011 Robinson Scholars spoke about their experiences here).

Since becoming EVC I've been happily surprised to see how KU Medical Center is building healthier communities all around the world. To cite just a few examples:

In May, Sue Pingleton, associate dean for continuing medical education, traveled to China to learn more about their medical education system and meet with several university and hospital leaders.

In June, Niazy Selim, associate professor of surgery, was invited by the Egyptian government to its Maadi Military Hospital in Cairo. Dr. Selim has extensive training and experience in gastrointestinal minimally invasive surgery. In addition to giving several lectures, he taught area surgeons while performing multiple surgeries. He continues to provide assistance via phone and email and has already been invited to return next year. Before his trip, Dr. Selim hosted visitors from Egypt who wanted to establish a communication line between KU Medical Center and international surgeons for education and continuing education purposes.

Also, in June, audiologist Teresa Kennalley of our hearing and speech department led five students in the Intercampus Program in Communicative Disorders on a Medical Missions Foundation trip to Antigua, Guatemala. Our volunteers saw 173 patients; fit, cleaned and/or repaired 165 hearing aids; and made 149 new earmolds. Both KU Medical Center and The University of Kansas Hospital have a long working history with this foundation, and I've been personally involved with it for more than a decade.

In July, a multidisciplinary team of researchers led by Sarah Kessler, research assistant professor of family medicine, was awarded a five-year R01 grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Development to evaluate the HIV Infant Tracking System (HITSystem) in Kenya. The goal is to improve retention, treatment initiation and efficiency of services for early infant diagnosis of HIV. Dr. Kessler's research will also include cost-effectiveness analyses to determine whether a national scale-up of the HITSystem is feasible.

This year's Clendening Summer Fellows - medical students between their first and second years - pursued independent research at home and abroad. Some students traveled to Honduras and Peru. Hannah Anderson studied a refugee camp in Jordan. Kirsten Devin traveled to Brazil, where she studied tobacco cessation with Paula Cupertino, associate professor of preventive medicine and public health. All will present their research in November, and I am looking forward to learning more about their projects.

We are currently interviewing candidates for a new Director of International Programs. With more than 350 international students, post-docs, visiting scholars and employees on campus, we're excited to find the ideal candidate to lead this important program. In the meantime, the office has begun reorganizing and collaborating more with Student Services to enhance international study experiences, and we welcomed the newest group last week - 23 students from Asia and one student from South America.

This international work fulfills an important part of our mission. We know we have touched every habitable continent around the world - and we need to do a better job of telling that wonderful story. Focusing our already strong momentum on global health will be a big team effort, and I'll be asking you for help.

For starters, our Institute for Community Engagement, under the leadership of Interim Director Ryan Spaulding, is putting together an exploratory work group on global health care and research and is coordinating with other international programs on the Lawrence campus to see how we all may synergize efforts. They have also created a brief questionnaire to gather a snapshot of what we're all doing. If you have done work in or with other nations in the past year (August 2012 to August 2013), I'd like you to take a few minutes and tell us about it here.

We'll report back on these efforts in the months ahead. As we build on the important work so many of you are doing, it will be exciting to put KU Medical Center on the map as a partner to the world.

Last modified: Aug 23, 2013