October 21, 2010

VU to help increase number of health workers in Africa

VU to help increase number of health workers in Africa

A substantial new investment by the United States government will strengthen and build the clinical and research capacity of medical educational institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Sten Vermund, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health (VIGH) is co-principal investigator of one of the grants, which is the largest medical training award in the history of the University of Zambia (UNZA) School of Medicine.

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

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

The grant is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' new Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI). The principal investigator in Zambia is Yakub Mulla, an orthopaedic surgeon and dean of the UNZA School of Medicine.

Mulla and Vermund will use the nearly $10 million grant to lead a large multidisciplinary team in efforts to increase the school's capacity to train health care workers.

The Institute for Global Health will provide guidance, training and assistance in building this new capacity for the Zambian medical school.

“We and our other partners will help UNZA with curriculum expansion and to design the equivalent of a residency program in infectious diseases, which would be the first of its kind in Zambia,” Vermund said.

“We will help develop a clinical laboratory training program similar to Vanderbilt's Center for Experiential Learning and Assessment, and increase the capacity of the University of Zambia's medical and nursing schools in treatment and prevention education related to HIV infection, tuberculosis and related challenges,” Vermund said.

The goal in Zambia and throughout the MEPI program is to replace U.S. and other international expertise with local expertise and to improve the sustainability of health care systems in African nations, especially where HIV transmission, prevention and treatment are concerned.

MEPI represents the U.S. government's “next step” to the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Response (PEPFAR).

MEPI will provide $130 million to more than a dozen African nations over five years to achieve PEPFAR's goals to train and retain 140,000 new health care workers.

More than 20 U.S. collaborators will be involved in the efforts. Vermund said collaborators in the Zambian program come from diverse institutions including: University of Alabama, University of Maryland, University of Nebraska, Emory University and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.