Azad/Letter to Rebel and Herbert 2005-02-09

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Dear Dr. Rebel and Dean Herbert,

I met with Dr. Rebel recently to discuss the Global Health Interest Group's (GHIG) in-house activities and our involvement in several regional and national initiatives which call for increased involvement from the faculty. Most immediate are the upcoming conferences on global health in the undergraduate medical curriculum at which the Schulich School of Medicine should be represented, and hopefully even take on a leadership role.

In the past year there have been some exciting developments at the national level to create a global health undergraduate medical curriculum. The hub of the movement is the national Global Health Academic Interest Group chaired by Dr. Anne Fanning from the University of Alberta. Dr. Chan and I participated in the group's meeting at the Canadian Society for International Health conference in Ottawa earlier this year. The group is meeting again at the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada conference in Saskatoon at the end of April. As a member and informal communications coordinator of the group, and co-chair of the GHIG at Schulich, I have been asked to attend the meeting to provide a progress update on setting up an on-line curriculum resource database for the group, and to provide information on the global health content of our formal and informal curriculum.

The cost for the ACMC trip would be ~$1100-1200. Dr. Rebel mentioned that the Hippocratic council (Hippo) is provided with funds for distribution to students attending conferences. Steve Kim, VP Finance for Hippo, has informed me that Hippo has a budget of only $3 000 to cover all conferences and summer electives. According to Mr. Kim, Hippo has not decided on how to divide the funds for this year, but the typical figure per student should be approximately $200. Unfortunately, this still leaves a significant shortfall. We sincerely hope that the faculty and Hippocratic council are able to provide sufficient financial support, since the current arrangements put the conference out of reach.

I strongly believe that the faculty and students at Western have a particularly important contribution to make to this national project. Not only has Schulich been the site of pioneering work in forming a student-run global health education group (work which has been presented at various conferences including the upcoming Ontario Medical Education Network's Education Research Symposium 2005), but our school has an even more long-standing tradition of leadership in bringing Rural Medicine and Ecosystem Health into the undergraduate curriculum. We boast one of the largest and most active global health student groups in Canada. Many of our students have been heavily involved in global health education and national and international groups such as Physicians for Global Survival (PGS) and the Student University Network for Social and International Health (SUNSIH). These students have presented research, represented our faculty and taken leadership roles in many projects (e.g., the Kabul Medical Library Project, Haiti Birthing Kits, etc.). To be an active participant in the development of the national global health curriculum, we need to ensure the presence of our student and faculty representatives at this and future meetings of the Global Health Academic Interest Group. The meetings will generally take place twice a year, in association with the CSIH and AFMC conferences.

In addition, the next meeting of the student division of Physicians for Global Survival -- which works on initiatives such as Peace through Health -- is taking place this March in Vancouver. Our representative, Agnes Toth (2007) has attended all the previous conferences at her own expense but will need some support to attend the Vancouver conference, at which the national Student PGS meeting for representatives from Canadian medical schools, will also take place ($500). Agnes has been a very active member of the group. In addition to her work with PGS, she also organized Schulich's contribution to the Haiti Birthing Kits project. Over 1000 birthing kits have already been assembled by our team at Western.

The above are immediate needs. However, for us to be involved with these initiatives, the Schulich School of Medicine must make a commitment across several years, allowing students and faculty to be represented at these events. At our meeting, Dr. Rebel expressed significant uncertainty about the availability of funds both for the immediate needs (the conferences) as well as the long-term sustainment of a nationally active global health group at Schulich. She offered to further explore the possible avenues and agreed that the existing funding structures (Hippocratic council club & conference funding) would be insufficient to meet the projected needs. We have motivated and talented students who are eager to work on these initiatives. Without the faculty's moral and financial support however, it is impossible to continue to participate and innovate in local, national and international global health initiatives. I would appreciate the opportunity to meet with both of you, along with other interested students and faculty members, to discuss the level and nature of Schulich's potential involvement.


Azad Mashari