Rice University Med Students Encouraged to Go Global
by: Capella Tucker, August 7, 2006 5:08:00 am
Rice University Bio-Engineering Department Chair Doctor Rebecca Richards-Kortum has been teaching a one-semester global health class. That's becoming part of a new four-year concentration because of a $2.2 million award from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Richards-Kortum is involved in developing the undergraduate engineering program in global health.She says they want to use science and technology to address global health inequalities.
"We're identifying health challenges that undergraduates are capable of solving. So we want to give these students real world problems that come from international health settings. And then let them you use their talents and work together in teams to actually develop solutions to those problems that they can help implement in those international settings."
Richards-Kortum says one example is developing inexpensive microscopes.
"And that could go survive the very long and bumpy bus ride through the mountains and provide them with better diagnostic capabilities so they can more effectively provide health services there."
Richards-Kortum says there are a lot of every-day technologies that are taken for granted in the US, but are not in use in poorer countries.
"Technologies to enable them to cut pills, to have pediatric doses of medicines, and ways to help their patients keep their medicines cold for long periods of time."
Richards-Kortum says students benefit by seeing the need for continued research, and they gain a sense of accomplishment when they are able to see their solutions put into practice. One student is ahead of the game. Natalie Gwilliam took Richards-Kortum's course and then headed to Guatemala.
"I think the biggest thing is raising awareness. I think little things that we take for granted in the U.S. that can be implemented here."
Gwilliam is already making an impact and can already see the difference undergraduates can make.
"But ultimately what I would like to do is do some clinical work internationally and domestically with the indigent. And get a feel and understanding for what the problems really are. Where improvements can be made technologically and socially and in policy, and then after awhile move on into the public health policy realm."
Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.