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Global Health

Discover what’s possible. Browse these features to find out more about the impact of University of Minnesota research, education, and care—and how you can help.


The Global Health Course, taught in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, aims to decrease disparities in medicine, in part, by improving health care for immigrants, refugees, and travelers.

The course is open to practicing health professionals in addition to resident physicians in training. Gopherstan is meant to give course participants a taste of working under pressure in “resource-limited settings.”

The scene might look something like this: A small group of immigrant men has gathered in Minneapolis to smoke tobacco, talk, and chew a sour-tasting, leafy green plant. The plant, known as khat (pronounced cot), gives users a sense of euphoria and is illegal in the United States. Commonly used and legal in East African and Middle Eastern countries and an emerging problem in some immigrant communities in the United States khat has been linked to a variety of health problems and can lead to serious financial hardship for users who spend excessive amounts of money on the substance.

The Freeman family, Robyn, Margo, Don, and Myles (Photo: Ellen Johnson, Photogen, Inc.)

Ten-month-old Margo Freeman couldn't have looked any healthier. Yet, when Don and Robyn Freeman learned that their adoptive baby girl was waiting for them in Ethiopia, they sought an expert evaluation of her medical records and advice on what to expect when adopting a baby from a foreign country.

Locally grown peanuts are used to make Medika Mamba, a high-calorie, protein-dense treatment for malnutrition. (Photo courtesy of Meds & Food for Kids)

North-central Minnesota surgeon Paul Severson was enjoying a full life and a successful career, but he was looking for the chance to make a bigger impact. The 1978 Medical School, Duluth campus graduate had joined the medical community serving Crosby/Aitkin in 1984. He had championed the advancement of new surgical and medical services there and, later, with Howard McCollister, M.D., cofounded and codirected the Minnesota Institute for Minimally Invasive Surgery.


In a recent study, University of Minnesota researchers discovered that a combination of two cancer drugs may be an effective treatment for HIV. The drugs—decitabine and gemcitabine—are both already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and now used in cancer therapy. When tested in mice, the two drugs together caused the HIV virus to mutate itself to death—an outcome researchers call "lethal mutagenesis."

A mother keeps a close watch as her baby is treated for jaundice in one of the phototherapy boxes Balsam and her colleagues built. (Photo: Courtesy of Ashley Balsam)

After finishing a 30-hour hospital shift, Ashley Balsam, M.D., a third-year internal medicine and pediatrics resident, doesn't go straight to bed. "I'm going to play soccer," she says. That energy is typical of Balsam. Her normal routine includes doing rotations at University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview, playing soccer on a team with other residents, and caring for her new puppy, Chopper. She also finds the time and passion to volunteer with local outreach programs and travel to Nicaragua, where she’s studying the long-term effects of neonatal jaundice.

Thumbnail image for Cindy Martin, M.D., and James Moller, M.D., see patients together at the University’s new Adult Congenital and Cardiovascular Genetics Clinic. (Photo: Scott Streble)

Under the mantle of the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics, the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic in June committed to a formal research relationship with the Karolinska Institute of Stockholm, Sweden. Karolinska is the top-rated medical research university in Europe. The partnership aims to accelerate and build on the existing relationships among the three institutions.


More than 20 students from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health worked abroad this summer on their field experience, the hands-on component of several SPH academic programs. While their projects and settings varied dramatically, the overarching goal is the same: promote health and improve lives. Much of this work is done in collaboration with non-governmental organizations and locally based groups that helped the students connect to the communities they served.


Two SPH faculty members and one student have received Global Spotlight awards from the University of Minnesota Office of International Programs (OIP). The OIP’s global spotlight is a biennial focus on a region of the world and a pressing global issue. The latest focus is on Africa and the issue is water in the world.


University faculty from the College of Veterinary Medicine, School of Public Health, Medical School, and other collegiate units will be on the front lines of a global collaboration to fight emerging zoonotic pandemics—diseases that can spread between animals and humans.

Through the project, called RESPOND, faculty are joining a multidisciplinary team that will implement a U.S. Agency for International Development cooperative agreement with funding of up to $185 million, $55 million of which will go to the University’s Academic Health Center over the next five years.


When a group of four University of Minnesota Medical School students and two faculty members visited hospitals in Israel in 2008 through an International Medical Education and Research (IMER) program, they weren't sure exactly what to expect.

They knew not to expect the same Israel they'd seen on the news. They knew not to expect third-world conditions. They just weren't expecting the huge, leading edge simulation center they saw at the country’s largest hospital, Chaim Sheba Medical Center, near Tel Aviv.

Paul G. Quie, M.D.

After his first international medicine experience in China in 1981, Paul G. Quie, M.D., couldn't turn back. Quie, a pediatrician and infectious disease expert who has been on the Medical School faculty since 1958, was struck by the glaring health-care disparities between these countries and the United States.

"That and hearing the 90-10 rule," which, Quie explains, estimates that 90 percent of the world’s wealth spent on health care belongs to 10 percent of its population.


Joy Ngobi, M.D., M.P.H., knows hopelessness. One of her brothers was killed in a bar fight the week he graduated from college, and two more of her 11 siblings died of HIV—devastating Ngobi’s family, especially her mother.

The family experienced another blow when Ngobi’s sister—who had been taking care of the seven children her three brothers had left behind in addition to her own three kids—died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.


When fourth-year medical student Amanda Noska arrived in Haiti in January to study human rights, she found no shortage of issues to address. Noska was in Port-au-Prince for a public health fellowship to learn about the face of HIV and AIDS at a free clinic there.

But first, she couldn't help but notice the widespread poverty. About 54 percent of Haiti’s people live on less than $1 a day, according to the United Nations Development Programme, and 78 percent live on less than $2 a day.


Toni Moran, M.D., wasn't sure what to expect when she went to visit Mulago Hospital in Kampala, Uganda, two years ago. What she found haunted her: a disease that is manageable in the United States causing untold preventable deaths for lack of basic medical resources. "Our diabetes work here [in the States] is so high-tech and cutting-edge," says Moran, division chief of pediatric endocrinology and diabetes at the University of Minnesota. "In my career here in Minnesota, I hardly ever see children die."

Dan Kaufman, M.D., Ph.D.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded the University of Minnesota a $100,000 Grand Challenges Exploration grant for a global health research project that will explore the use of new stem cell-based therapies to fight the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Marshall Hertz, M.D. (second from left), Paul Quie, M.D. (fifth), and student Melanie Lo (sixth) were in the first University of Minnesota cohort to visit Israel through the Quie/Farbstein Health Care in Israel Program in 2008.

The University of Minnesota in November awarded Phillip Peterson, M.D., and Paul Quie, M.D., codirectors of the International Medical Education and Research Program, its 2008 Award for Global Engagement.

The award recognizes University faculty and staff for outstanding contributions to global education and international programs.

Kenya’s first three family medicine residents will graduate this year. Shown here with Dahlman (back row in green shirt) and others who helped to create the residency program, they are (front row, third, fourth, and fifth from left) Peter Mwaka, Patrick

Bruce Dahlman's first taste of international medicine, when he was a medical student in 1980, lingered, took hold, and eventually lured him back. Between his third and fourth years at the University of Minnesota Medical School, Dahlman visited several African countries to observe community health care there. Two things stuck with him long after he returned to the United States: the "breathtaking" scenery and the camaraderie of national and expatriate health-care workers serving together at a hospital in Zaire called Nyankunde.

Thumbnail image for Medical student Amanda Noska (left) and the doctors at GHESKIO, a free HIV/AIDS clinic in Haiti. (Photo: Amanda Noska)

Before an old army acquaintance asked him to volunteer his medical services abroad, Philip Gardner, M.D., hadn't given much thought to doing international humanitarian work. But because of his friend's request, Gardner traveled to Guatemala in 1994. And he's been hooked ever since on helping others in developing countries.

An alumnus of the Department of Ophthalmology's residency program, Gardner has taken about 10 two-week volunteer trips to Nuevo Progreso, Guatemala, over the last decade. He joins a team of volun- teer surgeons from the United States and Canada, performing procedures that are generally not available to many people in third-world countries.

Chandy John, M.D., reviews a research study with field dream

In the next minute‚ 240 babies will take their first breath; 216 of them will do so in a developing country. By the time the 24 babies born in the world's wealthiest nations don their bright backpacks and new shoes and head off to kindergarten‚ a third of the others will have suffered from malnutrition. Nineteen will have died‚ most from preventable illnesses such as respiratory infection‚ diarrhea‚ malaria‚ and measles.

The call for help is clear. So is the response being shaped by the Department of Pediatrics.

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