Robert H. Glew
Experimental Biology and Medicine, 2008
"The premise of this piece is that a priority of international health should be to increase the number of investigators in the US and other developed countries who engage in research and other kinds of scholarly work in underdeveloped parts of the world, particularly sub-Saharan Africa where the overall disease burden is the highest and the gap in biomedical research infrastructure is the widest. The author’s aim is to encourage medical students, resident doctors, and medical school faculty to devote a part of their career to teach, acquire clinical skills, or participate in research with health professionals at teaching hospitals in Africa. After briefly describing the thinking that led the author to Nigeria 30 years ago to teach and study biochemical aspects of health problems in rural and urban areas, he discusses some of the factors one needs to consider before entering into an international partnership, including identifying the right foreign collaborators, selecting a suitable research site, setting realistic goals, learning the local culture and indigenous language, and defining a theme for your program. Lastly, the piece points out potential pitfalls and problems that are often overlooked or underestimated in the early phases of planning an international partnership, including lukewarm institutional support at home, inflexible institutional review boards, dominance of the program by the US partner, maintaining continuity, and striking the right balance between scholarly work and humanitarian efforts. My hope is that US students and faculty in the health professions who read this piece will be stimulated and encouraged to consider how they might integrate into their curriculum or academic life visits lasting several months or more each year during which they would teach or train others or engage in research at a teaching hospital in some country in Africa. "