Northwestern announced Monday a new Center for Global Health at the Feinberg School of Medicine to “facilitate international experiences for its students, trainees, and faculty members.”
In addition, the Center will work to create self-supporting programs in areas of need around the world, and to provide “leadership and infrastructure support for non-US investigators in their countries,” the university said in a press release.
The project, directed by international health physician and Feinberg professor Robert Murphy, is expected to materialize in a month.
“I’ve been working on this for three years, and finally it’s happening,” Murphy said.
Murphy’s work in an international setting began in 1991, when he was first sent to Africa by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to support AIDS prevention training in Western Africa. Over the years, he developed relationships with universities and medical programs across the continent.
This networking ultimately helped form the basis for the Center, Murphy said. The grant funding that he receives every year to develop partnership programs in Africa — which amounts to about $2 million — will be used to finance the new center, he added.
Sending medical students to foreign countries is not a new practice, but the creation of the Center will streamline the process, according to Murphy. While different departments are currently responsible for organizing international exchanges and preparing travel documentation, the Center will eventually take up many of these tasks.
“It’s been going on for really quite a while in various departments of the medical school,” he said. “The center actually helps to add value to what’s already going on.”
The Center will add the possibility for foreign students to come to Chicago as well.
“We’ve been working internationally so much that any kind of a real program has got to be bilateral,” Murphy said.
“The days of sending undergraduates or medical students over for an experience, that’s really great for them, but really, what is the other side getting out of it? It turns out they get very little out of it,” he added. “We have to reciprocate, we have to take their students and their faculty, so it can be mutually beneficial.”
Because the Center is based heavily on Murphy’s connections, many of the partner institutions are in African countries, such as Kenya, Senegal and Nigeria. The Center will also partner with institutions in France. Murphy said he hoped to extend the Center’s collaborations in the future.
“I really want to expand outside of Africa,” he said. “We want to have an Asian relationship as well. All that stuff is in the works.”
While the Center is now intended to be exclusively for medical students, there is a possibility of having undergraduate students participate in such exchanges as well.
“The center is actually within the medical school, but we will be interacting with all the other schools,” Murphy said. “We already have a really good relationship with Weinberg, we have a very good relationship with the Kellogg school […] and we also have a very good relationship with the bioengineering school.”
Hopes are high for the Global Health Center’s future, because many students supported the idea, Murphy added.
“It’s going to be a very exciting program because there’s really very much demand coming from the students’ side,” he said. “I have to admit it’s really been the spirit of all of the students — undergraduate and medical students — that has been a very significant driver of the whole process.”