Earlier this month Meharry Medical College and the Morehouse School of Medicine announced that they have formed a partnership with the University of Zambia. The partnership, which kicks off this fall, will focus on disease research and prevention and develop a student and faculty exchange program.
Dr. James E.K. Hildreth, president of Meharry, and Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, president and dean of Morehouse, have maintained a relationship with leaders at the University of Zambia for 10 years.
“Research was the basis for the relationship starting out, and research will be key to the new partnership,” Hildreth told me recently.
Diseases of Affluence—and Poverty
In Zambia and other parts of Africa, health disorders are now appearing that hadn’t previously as the continent’s socioeconomic status rises. “Diabetes, obesity, even some cancers that are related to diet and certain lifestyles,” Hildreth says. “They’re dealing with the same disparity issues that occur in disadvantaged communities in this country.”
Hildreth says the three schools look forward to “identifying the social determinants of health.” They are also examining the role of culture and how it protects populations from certain diseases.
“We are thrilled to have formed this partnership with the University of Zambia alongside Meharry Medical College,” Rice is quoted as saying in a statement announcing the partnership. “This agreement between three like-minded organizations promises to accelerate treatment and care options for AIDS, diabetes, cancer, and other disease states that plague the people of America and Africa. By collaborating more closely we can impact more fully the lives of the people we serve.”
Hildreth says he and Rice want all their medical students to have a global experience. “We’d like them to see what health is like in another setting, to understand the challenges and limitations of what we do but also the capacity we have to make a real difference in the world, which has become very small.”
Students from the University of Zambia will also do research in the U.S. and teach students here about infectious diseases that American students are less likely to encounter.
“The opportunity to integrate the educational and research expertise of both Meharry Medical College and Morehouse School of Medicine with that of the University of Zambia is quite historic,” said Luke Mumba, vice chancellor of the University of Zambia. “The three institutions are working in our separate communities to address some of the world’s most vexing health problems, from AIDS to cancer. It is exciting to imagine how much stronger we will be now that we are working more closely on these issues together.”
The seven core areas on which the partnership will collaboratively research are HIV/AIDS, cancer, HPV, diabetes, hypertension, infectious disease, and malnutrition.