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Symposium launches health institute

For the launch of the Duke Global Health Institute, the Nasher Museum will host more than art today. The Duke Global Health Symposium will bring together faculty, administration and international global heath leaders for two days of speeches and discussions.

Among those featured at the Symposium are Paul Farmer, Trinity '82 and founder of Partners in Health, Joep Lange, former president of the International AIDS Society, and Amartya Sen, 1998 Nobel Prize winner in economics.

Dr. Victor Dzau, chancellor for health affairs and president and CEO of the Duke University Health System, said his vision for the institute can be broken down into three main goals: to improve health care for the local Durham community, to bring together the best minds from the University for an interdisciplinary approach to global health and to increase "global health literacy" so that both graduate students and undergraduates can better understand the issue.

"This is unique for Duke," Dzau said. "I'm not aware of any other place that has spanned this broad a vision-and most other centers are not located at universities."

Dzau, who called global health "the defining issue of our time," said he hoped to bring together doctors, patent lawyers, ethicists, economists and others to lend their own expertise to the field of global health research.

"We see this involving everybody," Dzau said. "My impression is that we can become like the Sanford Institute of Public Policy [in that we] can eventually start evolving into something bigger."

The Global Health Institute was created in response to recommendations issued in May 2004 from a committee composed of students, administrators and faculty.

The committee proposed the Global Health Initiative, which aimed to re-examine the way Duke handled global health issues.

In addition to proposing the creation of the Global Health Institute, the committee also proposed both an undergraduate and a graduate certificate in global health issues.

The graduate certificate has already been approved, said Laura Sample, a research coordinator at the Center for Health Policy.

Sample is also a presenter at the Symposium and a member of the committee.

She explained that the Institute will bring together results from global health research conducted across the University of which scientists may not have even been aware.

"We have such a huge strength in the medical field-locally we are doing a lot of work, as well as internationally, but none of this has really been brought together," Sample said.

"But now all this good work we already have been doing and the strengths of our University will come together to really create a strong program while not duplicating efforts," she added.

Currently, however, the launch of the Institute at the Symposium is little more than a verbal commitment.

The $30-million-plus Institute has yet to acquire a building and the search for a director for the Institute did not begin until recently, Dzau said.

Although Duke is maintaining its commitment to global health concerns-such as a Singapore medical school that is currently being developed-Dzau also emphasized the importance of examining health problems in Durham as well.

"Global includes local," Dzau said. "We have always recognized we are a part of Durham, and we need to do a lot for Durham-especially those of us in the medical community."

Dzau said the Institute's local focus will include issues such as substance abuse, diabetes and obesity.

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