March 17, 2000

World Health Week offers students global insights

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Holly Byrd holds her newborn twins, Catherine Loraine and David Tyler, deliverd by VUSN’s Certified Nurse Midwife Practice. (photo by Dana Johnson)

World Health Week offers students global insights

Dyann Wirth, Ph.D., an international expert in the cause and treatment of malaria, will be the keynote speaker next Thursday for Vanderbilt University School of Medicine's annual World Health Week.

Wirth, professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Harvard School of Public Health, will speak on "Malaria: New Perils and New Promises in the 21st Century." Her speech will be Thursday, March 23 at noon in 208 Light Hall. The lecture is open for anyone to attend.

In addition to her academic title, Wirth is director of the Harvard Malaria Initiative and Director of the Division of Biological Sciences at Harvard School of Public Health. She is also an expert advisor to the World Health Organization and in 1999 served as the president of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Wirth is the author of more than 100 publications on parasitic diseases including malaria, leishmaniasis, oncocerciasis and entamoeba histolytica.

"Dyann Wirth was selected as our keynote speaker for several reasons," says Christine Cooper, a second-year medical student who serves as a co-chair of World Health Week along with Sandy Neblett, Hong Yu and Melody Knauf, also second-year students.

"In recent years there has been an upsurge in interest in international medicine among Vanderbilt medical students, with many students doing international rotations. Malaria is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in developing nations and is commonly encountered clinically by Vanderbilt students in these clinical settings."

World Health Week kicks off on Monday, March 20 with a discussion with Drs. John W. Boldt, medical director of Hospital Vozandes in Quito, Ecuador and assistant clinical professor of Internal Medicine at VUMC, and Timothy F. Jones, epidemiologist, director of FoodNet and co-medical director of Tuberculosis Control Program with the Tennessee Department of Health. Jones, an assistant clinical professor of Preventive Medicine at VUMC, was also 1999 Polio Eradication Project Consultant in the Republic of Yemen.

On Tuesday, March 21, Dr. George Brenneman, associate director of the Center for American Indian and Alaskan Native Health at John Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, will speak on "Practicing Medicine within the Indian Health Service."

Dr. Capri-Mara Fillmore will speak on Wednesday, March 22, giving anecdotes and stories from her international health experiences. Fillmore is with the NIH's National Cancer Institute, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics.

The World Health Week lecture series, which began in 1988, is sponsored by the Committee on International Medical Education and is intended to provide exposure to international health issues to students, faculty and the general public. It is also designed to demonstrate to students the opportunities for using a medical degree in an international setting.

"Many students are exploring how to incorporate international work into a medical career," Cooper said. "We believe hearing from Dr. Boldt and Dr. Jones, who have taken different routes to international medicine, would be very useful to the student body. The same idea is behind Dr. Fillmore's selection, with the additional thrill of hearing from, in her case, a former Vanderbilt medical student who was a co-founder of World Health Week," she said.

Brenneman's selection was also motivated out of expressed student interest in the Indian Health Service experience and the fact that several Vanderbilt students have done rotations on Indian reservations over the past several years.

All speeches will be held at noon in 208 Light Hall. Students, faculty and the public are welcome to attend any or all sessions.