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Vermund named assistant vice chancellor for Global Health

Apr. 9, 2015, 10:05 AM

Sten Vermund, M.D., Ph.D., has been named assistant vice chancellor for Global Health in recognition of the growing importance of globalization to Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s research, teaching and patient care missions.

Sten Vermund, M.D., Ph.D.

Vermund, the Amos Christie Professor of Global Health, directs the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health, and is professor in the Department of Pediatrics. He is known internationally for his leadership of projects aimed at HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment, HPV/cervix cancer prevention, and on maternal and child health in low resource regions.

In the newly created position, Vermund will lead development and implementation of the Medical Center’s strategic vision for global health, said Robert Dittus, M.D., MPH, associate vice chancellor for Public Health and Health Care.

“Over the past decade, the importance of global health has grown significantly, both locally and nationally,” said Dittus. “Expanding our portfolio of global health activities is critical to continue this work.”

An international focus is particularly important for an academic medical center like Vanderbilt, said Vermund, because it strengthens its ability to fully achieve its three-part mission: research, teaching and service.

Toward Vanderbilt’s research mission, “scientific questions are sometimes better answered in an international context,” he said, “because the diseases and/or key risk factors are more prevalent than in the U.S. We need to compare and contrast data from the U.S. and overseas to derive key inferences, as has been done so elegantly in the area of cancer etiologies through the Shanghai cohorts and the Southern Community Cohort Study.”

Dozens of Vanderbilt faculty members already provide clinical services in low and middle income countries. Their expertise has proven invaluable in responding to surgical and anesthesiology needs, natural disasters here and abroad, and in combating the spread of emerging infectious diseases no longer contained by geography, Vermund noted.

While communicable diseases are a primary focus for global health at Vanderbilt, there is rapidly growing faculty activity in chronic health conditions globally. Poor health behaviors, such as smoking, and chronic diseases, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease, “have become critical global concerns for which we need local, national and global solutions,” Dittus said.

In the realm of training, “we have students from all over the world at the Medical Center and University,” Vermund noted. Faculty members also go to other countries to share their expertise with international colleagues in clinical care and health care delivery and to learn from them new approaches for improving health and health care.

The expansion of the Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network, for example, is encouraging a wider population focus on the provision of health services, said Dittus, a focus that other countries have had for many years.

At the same time, Vanderbilt experts can help colleagues in other countries develop health care delivery systems that incorporate, in an efficient and effective way, new preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to care, and which ultimately improves individual and population health.

This “reciprocal learning” will yield benefits locally and globally, Dittus said.

A member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, Vermund is known for leading international projects in Zambia, Mozambique, Nigeria, China and elsewhere. Among other successes, these projects have brought to scale the prevention of HIV transmission from mothers to their infants. He also has spearheaded efforts to increase childhood immunization rates and to ease the burden of tropical and childhood diseases.

Before coming to Vanderbilt in 2005, he served as chief of the vaccine trials and epidemiology branch of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ AIDS Division, and as chairman of Epidemiology and director of the Sparkman Center for Global Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Vermund and colleague Douglas Heimburger, M.D., M.S., are co-principal investigators of the Vanderbilt-Emory-Cornell-Duke Fogarty Global Health Fellowship program, funded through the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health.

This supports the training of global health research trainees at overseas collaborating partners of the four universities.

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