Bugged: Susan Paskewitz to share why ticks, mosquitoes matter to global health

Entomology professor and chair Susan Paskewitz, right, and a graduate student check a mosquito trap as part of field research. Paskewitz, an expert on ticks and mosquitoes, is keynote speaker for the 2018 Global Health Symposium. (Photo by Jeff Miller.)

For most of us, bugs are an irritation. Mosquitoes are to be swatted. Ticks avoided. Spiders … well, let’s not go there.

For Susan Paskewitz, keynote speaker at the April 10 Global Health Symposium, insects are cool – and gorgeous – and understanding them is a way to contribute to health in Wisconsin and around the world.

Susan Paskewitz

“I am at heart a biologist who really values biodiversity,” says Paskewitz, professor and chair of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Entomology, co-director of the new Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Disease and an Advisory Committee member at the Global Health Institute (GHI). “The marquee element for me is thinking about all the wonderful life that’s out there, what it does, how it makes a living, how it enriches and supports us. At the same time, I’ve found a way to take that appreciation for nature and biology and turn it into something that has the potential to generate impacts on people’s well-being.”

This year’s Global Health Symposium, Advancing Health in Uncertain Times, is again free and open to the public. Registration is requested and check in begins at 4 p.m. at Union South on the UW-Madison campus.

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Chimpanzee deaths in Uganda pinned on human cold virus

This 2-year-old chimp named Betty succumbed to a human common cold virus in Uganda. The opportunity to retrieve Betty’s body before it decomposed or scavengers set in was critical to making the discovery.

This story appeared first at news.wisc.edu.

In the wild, chimpanzees face any number of dire threats, ranging from poachers to predators to deforestation.

That’s why scientists, investigating an outbreak of respiratory disease in a community of wild chimpanzees in Uganda’s Kibale National Park, were surprised and dismayed to discover that a human “common cold” virus known as rhinovirus C was killing healthy chimps.

“This was an explosive outbreak of severe coughing and sneezing,” says Tony Goldberg, a professor in the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s School of Veterinary Medicine and one of the senior authors of a report documenting the event. The report was published online today (Dec. 13, 2017) in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

“It was completely unknown that rhinovirus C could infect anything other than humans,” says Goldberg, referencing a two-year-old chimp named Betty, who succumbed to the virus and whose body was quickly recovered and autopsied after her death. “It was surprising to find it in chimpanzees, and it was equally surprising that it could kill healthy chimpanzees outright.”

The outbreak occurred in February of 2013 and affected most of the chimps in the community. During that time, five chimps out of a community of 56 died, including Betty; the other animals that died were adults up to 57 years old. The findings, says Goldberg, are a cautionary tale about human interactions with wild apes. In Africa, people encounter chimpanzees and other apes when human settlements expand into ape habitats, through activities like tourism and research, and when apes leave the forests to raid crops.

Rhinovirus C is one of three rhinovirus species, each causing respiratory disease in humans. But rhinovirus C is notably more severe than its relatives, rhinoviruses A and B. Although the virus had likely been infecting people for several thousand years, it was unknown to science until 2006, when it was discovered using new DNA sequencing technologies.

In people, rhinovirus C infection can be especially severe in children, notes James Gern, another senior author of the study and a professor of allergy and immunology in the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. Gern’s lab was the first to grow rhinovirus C in the laboratory where it could be studied. Gern’s lab also described the receptor that the virus uses to infect cells of the respiratory system.

“In general, this virus seems to affect young children the most,” says Gern, whose lab performs high-throughput viral diagnostics, processing thousands of human samples annually. Gern explains that the genetics of the receptor — which serves like a lock-and-key mechanism that allows the virus to enter and infect a host cell — influences who is likely to be most affected by the virus. Some people have a version of the receptor that makes them highly susceptible to the virus while others have a different version that makes them resistant. For some people (young children, in particular) rhinovirus C infection can be a precursor or complicating factor for asthma.

“Chimps seem to be genetically predisposed to have problems with this virus,” Gern says. “The virus found in Betty was one that looked like it came from a human, and the level of virus in the lung was comparable to what we see in children.”

The authors were also able to examine the DNA of the chimps in Uganda using fecal samples, and they looked at published chimp genomes from across Africa. Goldberg says it was sobering to see that every chimp had the receptor that makes cells exquisitely sensitive to rhinovirus C.  “There’s a species-wide susceptibility of chimps to this virus,” says Goldberg.

Ann Palmenberg, a UW–Madison professor of biochemistry and an authority on cold viruses, says the genome of the virus obtained from Betty shows that the virus came from a human host. “We expected to see changes all over the genome, but it is not a chimp-adapted virus.”

Palmenberg, also a senior author of the study, says the virulence of the virus, with about a 9 percent mortality rate, was remarkable. “That’s why kids with the CDHR3 high-risk mutation are at increased risk for being hospitalized with severe respiratory illness.”

The findings, says Goldberg, are a cautionary tale about human interactions with wild apes.

Goldberg, who has worked in Uganda for years tracking viruses in animals, says outbreaks of respiratory disease in wild chimpanzees are not uncommon, but for the most part they go undiagnosed. In the few cases where causes have been identified, other viruses unrelated to rhinovirus C have been in play.

“In most cases, we don’t find out what it is. We’re thinking that rhinovirus C might be a major, missed cause of disease outbreaks in chimps in the wild,” Goldberg notes.

Unlike other viruses known to cause respiratory disease in chimps, though, rhinovirus C is not typically found in feces and may have been overlooked in the past.

Finding rhinovirus C as the cause of the 2013 outbreak in Uganda was part good luck, says Goldberg. The opportunity to retrieve Betty’s body before it decomposed or scavengers set in was critical. So, too, were Goldberg’s colleagues at Harvard and the University of New Mexico, who run a long-term chimp study in Kibale and can identify all the chimps in the community. This, plus the fact that a Ugandan veterinarian was on hand with the proper tools to obtain and secure samples through a post mortem in the field, made the discovery possible, he says.

See Goldberg’s interview with the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance here:

Celebrating Cindy Haq’s contributions to UW-Madison Global Health

Professor and physician Cindy Haq (holding child) has improved health for children across the world, including in Uganda, pictured here.

Her father was a Muslim from India/Pakistan. Her mother, a Christian from Indiana. Her childhood heroes were Jane Goodall and Albert Schweitzer. She and her husband discussed her interest in working in developing countries before they married. She spent decades improving health and well-being in places where resources were scarce and the needs were great. She inspired many students to do the same.

“Global health might be in my DNA,” says Cindy Haq, a professor of family medicine and population health sciences and godmother of global health at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “From as early as I can remember I was living between two worlds.  My identity was formed as a citizen of the world.  I noticed that random circumstances can create either marvelous opportunities like I had or horrendous challenges that many other people face. … I got a lucky hand.”

“When I went to Uganda, one of three children died before the age of 5. Today, it’s one out of 15. I’ve been able to contribute to that. I would not have had that experience if I would not have made that first trip. (By choosing global health), I made less money, my own children got sick, but they also learned a great deal.  We reaped soul-feeding rewards.”—Cindy Haq

As she prepares to begin a new chapter of her life as chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of California-Irvine, Haq took time to reflect on the evolution of global health at UW-Madison. The evidence of how much difference she made in Wisconsin can be found in a resume that includes her roles as founding director of the Center for Global Health (now the Global Health Institute), founder and inaugural director of Training in Urban Medicine and Public Health (TRIUMPH) for the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, plus university, national and international awards. She helped establish family medicine residency programs in Pakistan, Uganda and Ethiopia, and practiced family medicine in Belleville, Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Continue reading

Strength in Connection:

Strength In Connection, the October 2017 Global Health Institute Director’s Report is now available online.

  • Learn about GHI’s education program and our future leaders.
  • Check in with virus sleuth Tony Goldberg
  • See how GHI grants fuel research across campus
  • Discover how the GHI Quality Improvement Leadership Institute connected with the Dalai Lama
  • Understand how GHI is connecting health and climate for the benefit of all
  • Celebrate Cindy Haq’s next adventure
  • And more

Read the report.


QI Institute brings together world health leaders to work on everyday challenges

More than 30 of the world’s health leaders joined the QI Leadership Institute to tackle everyday health challenges in their countries.

“We need quality improvement now more than ever,” Lori DiPrete Brown, director of the Quality Improvement Leadership Institute, told 2017 closing symposium.  for the 2017 Quality Improvement (QI) Leadership Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Together, we can make life better for those we care for and strengthen our ability to be advocates and architects of system change.”

More than 30 health leaders from a nine countries and Wisconsin joined health science students and medical residents July 24 to 29, engaging with UW health experts, sharing leadership lessons and learning how to apply quality improvement principles to challenges they face. At the closing symposium, they presented concrete plans designed to improve health and well-being in their hospitals, clinics and communities.

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One Health idea gives Young African fellows new ways to promote health

The concept of One Health gives Webby Phiri, a physician in Zambia, a new way to approach at health challenges.

The idea of One Health – that the health of humans, animals and ecosystems are interconnected—presented new ways to address health challenges for the Mandela Washington Fellows visiting the University of Wisconsin-Madison this summer.

For Webby Phiri, a physician from Zambia, connecting environmental and human health gives him a new way to look at trachoma, a disease that can be spread by flies and lead to blindness. “By the time patients get to the medical side, it can be a bit too late,” says Phiri, one of 25 Mandela Washington Fellows representing 20 African countries who are spending 6 weeks at UW-Madison. Establishing strong relationships with environmental health and medicine could be important connections to battle the world’s top cause of preventable blindness.

Omari Mahiza, another Mandela fellow and physician from Tanzania, was delighted to find that One Health connects his two loves: medicine and farming. “One Health brings together agriculture, medicine and animal health, something I was wishing for for a long time,” says the 33-year-old father of two who is a pediatrician and hospital administrator and also raises chickens, grows garden vegetables and has a 7-acre farm where he harvests coconuts, mangoes and oranges.

“One Health brings together agriculture, medicine and animal health, something I was wishing for for a long time.”—Omari Mahiza, M.D., Tanzania

The Washington Mandela fellows visit to Madison is part of the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative begun by the U.S. government in 2014. This year almost 1,000 Africans between 25 and 35-years-old were selected to study at 38 host universities for academic coursework, leadership training and networking. The UW-Madison fellows are following a public management and leadership track, and the Global Health Institute (GHI) is among the campus groups that organized academic programs for them.

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New model helps cities make the case for bicycling and walking

A GHI team is improving a model that will help cities assess the health benefits of policies and infrastructure that encourage bicycling and walking. Here, bicyclists cast shadows on the bike lane in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison.)

We are a nation that caters to our cars. We build cities with 18-lane highways to accommodate them and erect three-car garages to house them. We take for granted the convenience of jumping into the car—or SUV or mini-van—to run down to the grocery store or drive to work. Usually traveling alone. Rarely considering an alternative, if one exists. Our streets clog, our air quality diminishes, and we face an epidemic of obesity.

But we love our cars. And when we make transportation plans, we want to make it as easy as possible for everyone to arrive on time without the headaches of a traffic jam.

 “You need vision to change the transportation system of a place. (This model) gives them evidence to get into that discussion.”—Jason Vargo

In the face of climate change and evidence of increasing ill health from ailments such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes, a trio of scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Global Health Institute (GHI)—associate scientist Jason Vargo, public health research fellow Maggie Grabow and statistician and programmer Samuel Younkin—are expanding the transportation conversation. Instead of talking only about level of service, traffic counts, journey time or vehicle flow, they are adding health into the equation—and giving city planners, public health professionals and activists the ability to do the same.

The tool is called ITHIM, the Integrated Transport and Health Impact Model.  “It’s a way for people to talk about how things come together—funding, policies, energy, infrastructure, transportation, housing and health,” Vargo says. “I hope it will lead to more thoughtful urban policy that addresses more issues at the same time.”

By linking diverse sets of data, from transportation behavior to disease risk to air quality to traffic injuries to health outcomes and more, ITHIM provides hard evidence that shows how cities can improve health, save money and reduce greenhouse gases related to climate change when they promote biking and walking. When it’s complete, the model will allow planners to compare plans and determine the benefits of each in terms of fewer deaths, less illness and money saved on health-care. The model will show how to maximize health benefits. It also bridges the gap between health and transportation, giving advocates for each a way to talk together.

“Transportation planning occurs all the time with big impacts on population health, but health is not a consideration in the decision-making process.”—James Woodcock, University of Cambridge

The tool was originally developed at Cambridge University in England and first brought to the United States by the California Department of Public Health. The Wisconsin team is leading the development of an open-source U.S. version of the tool that will be a user-friendly and accessible way to inject health into conversations about transportation infrastructure, investments and policy.

“Transportation planning occurs all the time with big impacts on population health, but health is not a consideration in the decision-making process,” says ITHIM originator James Woodcock, programme lead at the Center for Diet and Activity Research at the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine. He visited Madison recently to work with the GHI team. “ITHIM provides models, tools and evidence to make better decisions about health and improve the conversation.”

Providing hard numbers in Portland

For public health planners like Eric Main and Brendon Haggerty in Portland, Oregon, ITHIM, finally, gave them a way to talk about health in the context of transportation planning.

“It’s easy to talk about the health benefits of active transportation like walking and cycling, but in order for people to fully understand the importance, it’s beneficial to see that quantified: number of deaths reduced, years of life-lost reduced,” says Main, an analyst with the Oregon Health Authority. “With numbers, people pay more attention. It makes an even greater impact when there’s a monetization applied to those health benefits.”

This graphic shows ITHIM’s estimate of how changes in walking for average Americans could affect the years of life lived without disability or major diseases.

ITHIM showed Portland planners that policies and investments to lower greenhouse gas emissions could save up to 133 lives each year. ITHIM is also showing that making walking and biking safe and convenient, and providing incentives to expand the use of travel options will contribute to reducing health care costs by as much as $100 million by 2035.

Without ITHIM, the only nod transportation planning gave to health was in terms of safety or crash injuries, says Haggerty, an environmental health program specialist in the Multnomah (County) Health Department. “Transportation influences all the leading causes of death, in Multnomah County and in Oregon. We can’t make progress on our biggest public health challenges until we address how transportation influences health. … ITHIM represents an application of accumulated science on the ways transportation impacts health.”

The GHI team works with James Woodcock to refine the ITHIM model, from left, James Woodcock, Maggie Grabow, Samuel Younkin and Jason Vargo.

Active transportation: A benefit for the planet and its people

ITHIM makes a case for moving away from a car-centric mentality. “It is clear that replacing car travel with cycling or walking would benefit our health, as well as our environment,” Younkin says. “Our goal is to support evidence-based policy making by estimating the magnitude of those benefits.”

With ITHIM, for example, Wisconsinites could have shown the health benefits of a program such as Complete Streets—streets designed for the comfort and safety of all users—which was eliminated from the state budget in 2015. “We could say Complete Streets saves x-number of lives, improves health by this amount and reduces air pollution,” says Grabow, who looks for health in all policies. “It would have been great to have the model.”

Locked in a car culture, cities often only think of incremental changes that won’t change health outcomes, Vargo says. “You need vision to change the transportation system of a place. ITHIM gives them evidence to get into that discussion.”

By Ann Grauvogl/ July 13, 2017

Research by GHI Associate Director Tony Goldberg reveals relationship between a virus, a parasite and an African bat

If there is anything scientists are certain of when it comes to bats and their supposed role in causing human disease, it is that they still have a lot to learn.

Aside from well-established things like rabies virus, SARS coronavirus (the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome) and Marburg virus (an extremely dangerous but rare hemorrhagic fever pathogen), bats appear to carry a plethora of other germs with unclear effects, if any, on human health.

And even some commonly believed bat paradigms may be incorrect. For example, some speculate that bats play a role in the transmission of Ebola simply because Ebola and Marburg are related pathogens. But scientific evidence to support such speculation is scant, at best.

“The big picture relevance of the research is that if we’re going to understand the diversity of viruses in the world, we need to look in unusual places. We have a lot to learn about the basic distribution of species on the planet.”—Tony Goldberg, GHI associate director of research

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Tupesis helps link resident training and global health

Janis Tupsis, an emergency physician and GHI collaborator, works with Ethiopian medical residents.

Medical residency training in the U.S. rests on 100 years of history that sends new doctors to U.S. hospitals to learn the intricacies of their chosen specialty, from cardiac and cancer care to family medicine. What residency programs are learning is how to integrate global health into that training.

That’s where Janis P. Tupesis from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and Global Health Institute comes in. “The big push in a lot of disciplines is to integrate global health in residency training,” says Tupesis, an emergency physician, former UW Emergency Medicine residency director and current Graduate Medical Education-Global Health Institute liaison. “To develop new programs, you need to pay attention to how you go about it. How do we effectively and fairly partner with overseas medical groups?”

Tupesis explores those answers in two recent academic papers and a podcast released through the American Academy Emergency Medicine Resident and Student Association. He is also a volunteer technical consultant for the World Health Organization’s Emergency, Trauma and Acute Care Division, where he’s working on the division’s goal to create and implement an e-learning course. It’s based on the WHO Basic Emergency Care Course and will be available to tens of thousands of health care workers around the world.

Tupesis has worked on numerous global health and education projects in Liberia, Ethiopia and South Africa. “An ever-evolving body of literature and science shows when your students go abroad it gives them a different perspective,” he says.

“All of the core tenants of medicine are incredibly well-outlined in those (global) experiences, from broadened medical knowledge to understanding the social determinants of health.”—Janis Tupesis

Residents increasingly look for global health education, and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education is also looking for an international global health track or one that takes residents to resource-limited or urban settings in the U.S. In “Taking It Global: Structuring Global Health Education in Residency Training,” lead author Gitanjli Arora from Kaiser Permenente Los Angeles, Tupesis and colleagues discuss how to incorporate ethical and sustainable global health education into U.S. residency programs. The article was published in the May 2017 Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Common challenges face global health education efforts

Resident training must be structured differently than medical school programs since residents are hospital employees, not students. Residents, who have earned their medical degree, agree to work for a hospital for a given period of time, and Medicare pays for part of that training. “Medicare won’t pay for you to be in Ethiopia,” Tupesis says. Residents also face administrative challenges when they work abroad, and hospitals face equal challenges to bring international residents into U.S. hospitals.

“A number of common challenges face global health education efforts, including: lack of access to didactic global health curricula and/or faculty expertise, limited partnerships with international institutions, concerns of burdening international partners rather than being of service, insufficient program funding, low levels of institutional support, and a multitude of logistical, legal, regulatory and administrative barriers,” according to the Internal Medicine article. The authors propose and explore four questions to guide the development of global health programs:

  • Who are you teaching?
  • How are you teaching?
  • What are the goals of your global health program?
  • What are your resources?

UW-Health is among the pioneers in global resident education with a decade of experience in offering residents and fellows a pathway to clinical and educational experiences abroad. Over the past five years, UW-Health has had more than 20 different clinical disciplines participating in programs in more than 20 countries. In his podcast for emergency medicine residents, Tupesis draws on that history to help listeners prepare for an international rotation, thinking about cultural humility, communications and what they will learn.

Resident concerns the same everywhere

In a second article. “Attitude of interns toward implementation and contribution of undergraduate Emergency Medicine training: Experience of an Ethiopian Medical School,” published in April in the African Journal of Emergency Medicine, Tupesis and colleagues found that Ethiopian medical students and residents are interested in more formal emergency medicine training at the Addis Ababa University School of Medicine. “We believe that there is a general consensus of the relevance of having undergraduate emergency medicine training and the further integration of emergency care into other clinical rotations,” the authors concluded. They recommended beginning emergency medical training in pre-clinical years focusing on skills such as clinical care, communication, leadership and education.

Tupesis served as a mentor for the project that allowed residents to assess their department, and he had done similar work in the U.S. “Learners and trainees have very similar goals and objectives and similar problems wherever you are,” he says.

By Ann Grauvogl/ July 12, 2017

Climate change offers a comprehensive lens for public health

Addressing climate change is a comprehensive way to improve public health, according to a new report co-authored by GHI’s Jason Vargo. (Photo from the United Nations.)

A new article in the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, co-authored by Jason Vargo, Ph.D., MPH, an associate scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Global Health Institute and Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, suggests that addressing climate change offers the best means to ensure long-term public health.

“Emphasizing co-benefits, combining adaptation and mitigation efforts, and increasing interagency coordination can effectively address both public health and climate change issues,” according to “Climate Change and Public Policy,” which appeared in a special 2016 Public Health Law Conference supplement to the Spring 2017 issue of the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics. “This level of coordination and organization is challenging, but the health effects of climate change are so widespread, complex, and inimical to sustained well-being that it is essential that climate change should be the organizing principle for public health policymaking for the foreseeable future. Making climate change one of many policy priorities is insufficient. Simply, climate resilience is public health.”

“Everyone you talk to will say what they’re working on is a very important problem. And it is, and climate change will make that problem worse. Addressing climate change is an opportunity to address many problems, from heart disease to early childhood death to food security.”—Jason Smith, assistant professor, California State University, East Bay

Vargo joined lead author Jason A. Smith, MTS, J.D., an assistant professor at California State University, East Bay, and co-author Sara Pollock Hoverter, J.D., LL.M., a senior fellow at the Harrison Institute for Public Law at Georgetown Law, to present climate change and health information to a public health lawyers—a legal group that is more likely to focus on issues such as informed consent, food policy, gun laws and expanding access to care.

“This is a conscious effort by the organization to find out more about climate change and

Jason Vargo

health,” Vargo says. “My part is to show the scientific consensus on climate change, human contributions and what’s expected to happen to public health.” Vargo also pointed the lawyers toward leading scientific papers about climate change, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports and The Lancet Report on Health and Climate Change.

“The evidence of climate change is unequivocal,” the authors write, citing a warming atmosphere, decreasing ice cover and rising sea levels. Human drivers of climate change are clear, and strong evidence shows that “health is sensitive to changes in the climate system.The most severe impacts are the expected exacerbation of existing health problems.”

Lead author Smith is a public health lawyer who believes climate change is the game-changing problem for his field. “If we snapped our fingers and solved this problem today, we’re still locked into a very significant period of disruption,” he says.

Smith’s interest in climate change grew after he moved to California and began experiencing climate change consequences, including the drought, in real-time. “I was amazed and shocked that very few people in public health are working on (climate change),” he says.

Public health tends to react to immediate challenges, such as adaptations for rising heat or ways to reduce gun violence, he says. Public health advocates tend to focus on 5- to 10-year budget cycles, not large, multi-decade problems.

“Everyone you talk to will say what they’re working on is a very important problem,” Smith says. “And it is, and climate change will make that problem worse. Addressing climate change is an opportunity to address many problems, from heart disease to early childhood death to food security,” he says.

The authors look to climate change as an organizing principle for public health action. Climate change is broad, comprehensive and interdisciplinary, and captures many substantive areas and health vulnerabilities, Vargo says. Addressing climate change addresses intergenerational health, which can help policy makers think about improving the health of generations to come.

By Ann Grauvogl/ May 24, 2017

Celebrating the 2017 Global Health Certificate Graduates

Global health certificate graduates celebrate completing their program May 4 at the Carson Gulley Center.

Graduate, professional, capstone and undergraduate students gathered to celebrate their global health certificate graduation on May 4 at the Carson Gulley Center. They were among the 275 students who received a Graduate|Professional|Capstone or Undergraduate Certificate in Global Health at the conclusion of the 2016-17 school year, the largest class in the GHI’s history. They included engineers, journalists, nurses, teachers, pharmacists, scientists and economists, all who devoted a significant portion of their time at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to studying and understanding the determinants of health and disease.

“The classes I have taken through Global Health have transformed the way I think about the world. It has helped me see issues in a very intersectional manner, as I learned there was no simple cause or “solution” to any issue. It pushed me to be a better activist and understand my own identity more.” —Swetha Saseedhar, College of Letters and Science, undergraduate certificate earner

The undergraduate certificate is offered through a partnership between GHI and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. GHI and the Department of Population Health Sciences in the School of Medicine and Public Health collaborate to offer the graduate|professional|capstone Certificate. The certificates’ coursework discusses health and particularly the need to improve access to care for all. They also introduce students to the field of public health, a model for promoting health and well-being that seeks to identify and address the root causes of health problems for populations rather than individuals. Through a nine or 15 credit program of preparatory course work culminating in a global health field experience, graduates are prepared to address health disparities in a context of cultural diversity.

“[The global health certificate was] one of the best decisions of my life as it helped me determine my future career goals.” —Madison Thalacker, College of Letters and Science, undergraduate certificate earner

Since the creation of the graduate|professional|capstone certificate in 2006 and the undergraduate certificate in 2011,188 students and 1,269 students, respectively, have completed the programs. The undergraduate certificate has quickly grown to be the largest certificate program on campus. Graduates have gone on to become global health leaders in Wisconsin and across the world.

Here is what a few of our graduates had to say about their experience with the GHI:

“The Global Health Certificate opened my eyes to health equity, both in my backyard and across the globe. It instilled a passion for community based public health work and provided me with a community of students and faculty concerned with social justice, health as a human right, and targeting vulnerable populations. This foundation was essential in directing my career path and I can’t wait to continue my knowledge in this immense and inspiring field.” —Emily Lynch, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, undergraduate certificate earner

“Thank you for opening my eyes to health and the disparities of health that are prevalent locally and worldwide.” —Amanda Winter, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, undergraduate certificate earner

“I’ve traveled abroad many times in the past, but this was the first time I went with a specific mission to help and understand public health concerns in a rural population.  It was my most rewarding trip to date and opened my eyes towards mitigating future public health threats. I am excited to continue research and working with vulnerable populations as they face emerging and re-emerging infectious disease threats.” —Johnny Uelman, School of Medicine and Public Health, graduate|professional|capstone certificate earner

“I learned that to work in community with unique challenges, I have to form meaningful and long-term relationships with individuals and the community as a whole … I learned that it’s valuable to have patience and flexibility. Things can change in the community and your’ll have to go with the flow. … I learned about health promotion and prevention over treatment. I got to understand the challenges faced by the community, such as health care disparities and their impact.”—Drammeh Ummulkhair, School of Nursing, undergraduate certificate earner

Visit our Facebook page to view more pictures.

More information on the graduate|professional|capstone certificate and the undergraduate certificate.

By Catherine Goslin/ May 17, 2017

UniverCity Year celebrates yearlong partnership with Monona

UW System President Ray Cross, left, joins Monona resident Lindsay Wood Davis and UniverCity Year leader Jason Vargo during the May 3 celebration of the UniverCity Year-Monona project.

This story appeared first at news.wisc.edu.

It’s called the UniverCity Year program, but it’s really an extension of the Wisconsin Idea. On May 3, students, faculty and community members gathered at the Lake Mendota Room inside Dejope Hall to celebrate the yearlong partnership between the city of Monona and the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

The program pairs academic courses, faculty, staff and students with projects identified by the community. Monona, a city of about 7,500 just outside Madison, was the first community to participate.

“It aligned perfectly with our mission to move knowledge and discoveries off the campus and into the real world,” said Charles Hoslet, vice chancellor for University Relations.

The program is modeled on an initiative at the University of Oregon that has been adopted by a number of other universities.

A student conceptualized a new design for Monona’s Winnequah Park as part of UniverCity Year.

Twenty-three UW–Madison classes participated, working on 30 projects. Monona identified four project areas to work on: parks and recreation, housing and economic development, “Connected Monona” and active transportation. Students, faculty and staff worked on the projects through courses as well as individual projects.

“We tackled projects the city of Monona had dreamed about and drew up plans for better housing, transportation, communications and for restoring and renewing some of Monona’s most precious resources — places like Ahuska Park,” Hoslet said.

UW System President Ray Cross called UniverCity Year the second iteration of the Wisconsin Idea and looks forward to seeing the program expand throughout the state. By strengthening the relationship between UW and communities, solutions can be found while giving students experience outside of the classroom, Cross said.

“I have always felt the university needs to examine more problems, because creativity and innovation almost always are spawned through the study of problems,” Cross said.

 Students in Life Science Communications produced service announcements on a variety of topics to air on WVMO, 98.7 FM, the Voice of Monona radio station. Subjects covered bike safety and promoting the Monona Senior Center and Monona Library, which can be heard here.

They also researched and recommended improvements to the master plans for Ahuska and Winnequah parks, focusing on increasing the usability of the parks, including improvements to lighting, pedestrian paths, sports fields, and restroom facilities. They also investigated sustainable environmental management improvements like irrigation, drainage, landscaping, shoreline restoration and turf management.

“It allowed us the luxury of exploring more unique projects,” said City of Monona Mayor Mary O’Connor. “UniverCity was a win-win for both the city of Monona and UW–Madison. Undergraduate and graduate students received real world experience and hopefully learned something new along the way.”

Tom Landgraf, a senior lecturer in the Department of Real Estate and Urban Land Economics, was thrilled to be able to be part of the partnership.’

“We tackled projects the city of Monona had dreamed about and drew up plans for better housing, transportation, communications and for restoring and renewing some of Monona’s most precious resources — places like Ahuska Park.”—Charles Hostlet

“I’ve always gone for real-life projects instead of thought-up projects,” Landgraf said.

Visitors examine plans for Monona created by UW-Madison students as part of the UniverCity Year program. (Photo by Kari Knutson.)

Students examined the current housing climate in Monona to inform redevelopment goals and select sites for redevelopment. They were able to meet with planning directors and city administrators to share their ideas.

“The enthusiasm was phenomenal,” Landgraf said. “What sounds like kind of simple thing — linking students with the university and the Wisconsin Idea — this is really the next step up. I was really pleased. I know the students were really excited.”

Jessie Conaway, faculty associate for Native Nations Partnerships, had her Environmental Studies Capstone course partner with Monona Parks & Recreation and Ho-Chunk Nation Tribal Preservation. Projects centered around cultural research education and stewardship, including providing cultural resources in parks to educate elementary students.

“One of our initiatives coming out of the Nelson Institute is to partner more effectively and respectfully with the Wisconsin tribes in educational and conservation partnerships,” Conaway said.

“This UniverCity model was an opportunity for us to deliver that promise and develop curriculum that leverages indigenous perspectives and works to basically make more courses on campus for our students that features these indigenous perspectives on environment and culture.”—Jessie Conaway

Jason Vargo, an assistant scientist with the Nelson Institute and the Global Health Institute, leads the UniverCity Year initiative. UniverCity Year is a member of the Educational Partnerships for Innovation in Communities Network, which Vargo currently chairs.

“We hope students get real experiences they’d put on their resumes,” Vargo said. “And some might even think about how to get involved outside the classroom.”

Following the success of the Monona partnership, the program will next work with the Dane County Board of Supervisors (made up of 37 elected representatives), the county’s legislative and policy-making body.

The Dane County partnership will begin in fall and include projects focused on sustainability and equity, which gives UniverCity Year the opportunity to include other disciplines like law, social work, nursing and public health, Vargo said.

“The potential for the impact of the work is really phenomenal in Dane County,” Vargo said. “We’re very excited to take on new projects. They’ve helped us as a program think about how we want to operate.”

Proposals are now being accepted from communities interested in partnering with UniverCity Year during the 2018 calendar year. Request for Proposals are due June 30, 2017. For more information, visit the UniverCity Year website or email univercityalliance@wisc.edu.

By Kari Knutson, University Communications/ May 9, 2017

Christopher Olsen named Global Health Institute director of graduate certificate program

Christopher Olsen, right, newly named GHI director of the Graduate|Professional|Capstone Certificate in Global Health, meets with Eric Bempong, principal of a veterinary college in Ghana. (Photo by Mary Crave.)

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Global Health Institute (GHI) is pleased to announce that Christopher W. Olsen, DVM, Ph.D., has been named director of the  Graduate|Professional|Capstone Certificate in Global Health program.

He will lead graduate global health education activities and serve as the certificate’s faculty advisor. “I am passionate about educating students to meet the health challenges that we face around the world today,” says Olsen, a professor emeritus of public health in the School of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Pathobiological Sciences and former acting director of GHI. “In this position, I will work to make it possible for more students from all across the campus to be able to complete the certificate.”

The Graduate|Professional|Capstone certificate program was launched in 2006 and has seen 163 graduates from disciplines across campus, including the health sciences, engineering, social work, life sciences communication, and more. The certificate program is designed to teach future leaders to work across boundaries to find new solutions for health. GHI offers the certificate in collaboration with the Department of Population Health Sciences in the School of Medicine and Public Health.  “I realize I have big shoes to fill, following the strong leadership of Lori DiPrete Brown (the certificate’s founding director),” Olsen says.

More than 1,036 graduate and professional students have also participated in field experiences, including faculty-led courses, independent studies, and internships.

“The bones of the certificate program continue to rest on a strong foundation of commitment to multi-disciplinary perspectives, a real strength of UW-Madison,” Olsen says.

“The certificate reflects GHI’s dedication to addressing the complex and interlinked root causes of health challenges. From climate change and health to malnutrition, stunting and starvation to emerging infectious diseases, our global health challenges demand answers and collaborative work across many disciplines.”—Christopher Olsen

Olsen brings with him a wealth of global health experience. He was among the UW-Madison leaders from medicine, pharmacy, nursing, veterinary medicine and international studies who saw the need and found the means to establish a formal UW-Madison Center for Global Health, GHI’s precursor, in 2005. He helped create the global health certificate’s Thailand field course and taught for many years in the Ecuador field course. He also led a decade-long series of international workshops at UW-Madison on transboundary foreign animal diseases. Olsen is currently completing a Baldwin grant-funded project in Ghana to develop One Health and girls’ empowerment curricula for junior high school students.

Olsen previously served in campus administrative positions, as veterinary medicine’s associated dean for academic affairs (2007-2012), vice provost for teaching and learning for UW-Madison (2012-2014), and acting director of GHI (2014-2015). He has been affiliated with the Master of Public Health (MPH) degree program since its inception and, in his new role, will return to service on the MPH Steering Committee. Olsen is also a member of the 4W leadership circle, as well as the Journal of Veterinary Medical Education Editorial Board.

Olsen received his DVM and Ph.D. degrees from Cornell University and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the UW-Madison before joining the faculty in 1994. Olsen’s research focused on the public health aspects of influenza in animals and the viral and host factors that control transmission of influenza viruses among people and animals. He also has strong educational interests in zoonotic infectious diseases, in building bridges between the veterinary medical and human medical professions, and in promoting cross-disciplinary One Health approaches for global and public health. Olsen has published more than 65 refereed research and educational journal articles, as well as numerous proceedings and book chapters. He is also the recipient of several faculty honors, including election to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Teaching Academy, and the SVM’s Norden Distinguished Teacher Award and Walter F. Renk Distinguished Professor Award.

GHI works at the intersection of health, justice and sustainability to uncover and address the roots of health challenges—from food scarcity and lack of vaccines to air pollution, the need for health training and more. Through education, research and outreach, the Institute engages partners from across campus and works with governments, non-governmental organizations and communities in Wisconsin and across the world. UW-Madison, with its tradition of collaboration and 21 centrally-located schools, colleges and institutes, is considered a leader in this “health in all policies” approach to global health. In addition to co-managing the Graduate|Professional|Capstone Certificate, GHI also works with the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences to offer the Undergraduate Certificate in Global Health.

By Ann Grauvogl/ May 3, 2017

New global health awards tackle sustainable diets, antimicrobial resistance, domestic violence and more

Yoshi Kawaoka, a professor in the department of pathobiological sciences, left, established collaborative research in Sierra Leone during the Ebola virus outbreak and has now received a GHI Seed Grant to identify neglected and new human viruses in Africa. (Photo courtesy of the Kawaoka lab.)

Drawing on expertise from schools and colleges across campus, the 2017 University of Wisconsin-Madison Global Health Institute (GHI) grant recipients showcase the breadth of disciplines needed to ensure health for all—from infectious diseases to economics, dairy science to biochemistry to medicine.

The awards, announced today, go to faculty, staff and students in Human Ecology (SoHE), Veterinary Medicine, Medicine and Public Health (SMPH), Letters and Science (L&S), and Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS). They include six Seed Grants, three Graduate Student Research Awards, three Visiting Scholar Awards and one Faculty and Staff Travel Award.

This year’s grantees address topics from emerging infectious diseases to school milk programs, domestic violence to food security. They will bring visitors to UW-Madison to explore how fungi spread and to establish collaborations to improve women’s well-being and connect cities to their surroundings.

The Global Health Institute is dedicated to using the full breadth and depth of campus expertise to tackle today’s pressing global health problems and educate a new cadre of global health scholars and leaders. The grants and awards foster collaborative projects that address the complex determinants of health and disease, and ensure equitable and sustainable health for people, all life and the planet.

The Seed Grants, especially, are designed to launch new global research projects and make them competitive for sustained external funding. Seed Grants carry the largest awards of up to $50,000 each. This year’s recipients come from four schools and colleges.


Seed Grants

  • Nasia Safdar, M.D., Ph.D., vice chair for research in the Department of Medicine, SMPH, leads a team that will tackle antimicrobial resistance, beginning with a one year pilot project in India. “Antibiotic resistance is a global public health crisis,” Safdar writes in her proposal. Ajay Sethi, an associate professor in population health sciences, and Dawd Siraj, a professor of medicine, join Safdar and partners in New Delhi on the project.

“Antimicrobial resistant infections kill. … Antimicrobial resistance hampers control of infectious diseases. … Antimicrobial resistance increases the costs of health care, jeopardizes health care gains to society and damages both trade and economics.” —Nasia Safdar, Department of Medicine

  • Michel Wattiaux, a professor in dairy science, CALS, and Heidi Busse, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies, SoHE, lead the School Enrichment and Livelihoods Accelerated through Milk project to strengthen multisector collaborations linking dairy development with school milk programs in rural Ethiopia. The project aligns with the Ethiopian government’s priorities by helping to improve nutrition for children and communities, increase the incomes of smallholder farmers and enhance the mental, psycho-social and physical development of the next generation. Wattiaux and Busse are joined by Brian Christens, an associate professor in civil society and community studies, SoHE, and Ann Evensen, an associate professor in family medicine and community health, SMPH. Together, they will work with Ethiopian and Wisconsin partners from government, university and non-profit sectors, building upon prior partnerships to help ensure sustainability.
  • Jeremy Foltz, professor of agricultural and applied economics, CALS, will examine the effects of the Dodd-Frank legislation (it called for tracing the origins of conflict metals and led to the closing of mines) on domestic and sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Currently, the European Union and United States are considering further changes to conflict minerals legislation. “While it is generally accepted that Dodd-Frank caused significant declines in 3T (columbite-tantalum, tin and tungsten) mining, it is less clear whether or not ‘Obama’s Law,’ as it is known in local vernacular, has benefitted Congolese citizens,” Foltz writes in his application.
  • Yoshihiro Kawaoka, DVM, Ph.D., professor of pathobiological sciences in the School of Veterinary Medicine, will catalog viruses circulating among West Africans with an eye to improving diagnoses, identifying new viruses and, potentially, preventing the next epidemic. “Neglected viruses … and novel viruses represent a major health risk for human populations,” he writes in his application. Ebola, which was not considered a major threat prior to the 2013 to 2016 outbreak, is an example. Without early diagnosis, the outbreak grew.

“The global health community must remain vigilant. The increase in global travel, overlap of human and animal habitats, climate changes and bush meat trafficking may facilitate the emergence and reemergence of viruses in the human population, potentially resulting in devastating outbreaks.”—Yoshihiro Kawaoka, Department of Pathobiological Sciences

  • James Ntambi, professor of biochemistry, CALS, and John Ferrick, associate director of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences International Programs, will work with the UW-Madison student organization, Village Health Project, to maximize crop output and add livestock, including cows, pigs, ducks and chickens, to Ugandan farms. A third of the children younger than five and 60 percent of their deaths are linked to undernutrition, “Although the causes of undernutrition in Uganda vary by region, they include availability and access to food, lack of dietary diversity and levels of poverty,” Ferrick writes. Introducing livestock to farms can have many benefits, from reliable fertilizer for crops to more dietary choices to jobs and education.
  • Leonelo Bautista, associate professor of population health sciences, SMPH, will develop tools to accurately predict the risk of cardiovascular disease in Latin America. His team will estimate the prevalence of major risk factors and the incidence of cardiovascular disease, and recalibrate and validate the Framingham equation, a commonly used tool for predicting the risk of cardiovascular disease. He will work with partners from the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Lima, Peru, and the University of Washington-Seattle.

Graduate Research Awards

  • Yoo Jiah, Department of Psychology, L&S, “Culture shapes appraisal and cardiovascular recovery from anxiety.”
  • Kaitlin Faye Mitchell, Department of Population Health Sciences, SMPH, “Impact of hospital antimicrobial stewardship policies in Manila, Phillipines.”
  • Iseli Hernandez, Psychology, L&S, “Cultural differences in parent-child endorsement of germ and cold weather theories of the common cold.”

Visiting Scholar Awards

  • Araceli Alonso, associate faculty in gender and women’s studies, L&S, will host Teresa Langle de Paz from the Autonomous University of Madrid ( Spain)- Foundation for a Culture of Peace to discuss a transnational approach to health, well-being and women’s leadership and consolidate collaborations for the UNESCO Chair on Gender, Well-being and a Culture of Peace. The women are co-directors of the chair awarded to UW-Madison.
  • Mary Beth Collins, director of the Centers for Research and Public Affairs, SoHE, will host Adriana Olivares from the University of Guadalajara, for two weeks to discuss collaborations for campus-community engagement projects related to the Connecting Landscapes project and the environmental landscape museum in Guadalajara, Mexico.
  • Anne Pringle, associate professor of botany, L&S, will host Martina Iapichino, a doctoral student from the Insitut de Physique de Nice, Universite Cote d’Azur, to collaborate and better understand the complex determinants of spore movement, which drives fungal diseases that affect people and ecosystems.

Faculty and Staff Travel Award

  • Bret Shaw, associate professor in life sciences communication, CALS, will visit Majimbo in western Kenya to conduct research and develop a communication plan to promote nutrition, food security and entrepreneurship through sustainable urban gardening in the region’s secondary schools.

This is the fourth year, GHI has awarded grants to UW-Madison researchers. Previous projects have resulted in multiple papers and peer-reviewed articles and dozens of professional presentations. Researchers developed an app that gives emergency room physicians the hospital-specific information they need and have received further funding from outside sources.

By Ann Grauvogl/ April 24, 2017

Zero TB for Tibetan Kids

Madison’s Zorba Paster, second from left, first invited the Delek Hospital team to GHI’s Quality Improvement Institute, where they developed a TB project that attracted the Dalai Lama’s support.

The project began in 2015 in a University of Wisconsin-Madison classroom. Madison’s Dr. Zorba Paster invited Tibetan health leaders from Dharamshala, India to participate in the UW-Madison’ Global Health Institute’s week-long Quality Improvement (QI) Leadership Institute. Their goal? To wipe out tuberculosis in Tibetan schools and monasteries, where the infection rate is six times higher than the global average. The effort will make a difference in their community and show that death and illness due to TB can be eliminated.

Fast forward two years. The Dalai Lama meets with the TB team led by Dawa Phunkyi, CEO of Delek Hospital, Paster and colleagues Kunchok Dorjee and Dick Chaisson from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. They explain the TB dilemma, and the Dalai Lama agrees to record a public service message in Tibetan to underline the threat of the disease. He urges civil, government, school and religious leaders to work together on a new project, Zero TB in Tibetan Kids: Training to End TB Now.

“I hear you say that eliminating TB in Tibetan children is an achievable goal. Unlike many other diseases, TB is curable so it must be eliminated. … We should never let down our guard in the goal to eliminate TB.”—the Dalai Lama

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