Neurosurgery in the Amazon Rainforest

A man from the Amazon rainforest holds a stethoscope to Dr. Eric Jennings Simoes chest.

Providing Voice and Care for Newly-Contacted Communities

Dr. Erik L. Jennings Simões is a neurosurgeon who works deep in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. He founded the first public service neurosurgery unit in the interior of the Brailizian Amazon and became a private pilot to reach it.

He will share both his personal experiences in the rainforest as well as the ethical, cultural, logistical and other aspects of providing health care to recently-contacted populations.

For more than 18 years, Jennings Simões has operated on patients with specific neurological diseases contracted in the forest, such as intracranial hematoma caused by snake bites, head trauma from falling hedgehog nuts and accidents involving encounters with trees and wildlife. Along with frequent visits to the interior, he was appointed health coordinator of the Zoé people, an indigenous recently-contacted tribe.

Jennings Simões divides his time between the neurological service of the municipal hospital of the city of Santarém and a small hospital in the middle of the forest, under his direction, where he cares for the indigenous Zoé people. He often uses his own single-engine airplane to reach the site.

Some of Jennings Simões activities have been presented in public television documentaries. Others include investigations into the forensic use of necrophagous fish from the Amazon.

Jennings Simões is also an environmental activist and defender of the rights and culture of indigenous peoples. He is currently a consultant to the Ministry of Health for health matters involving isolated indigenous peoples of recent contact. This governmental ministry advocates for cultural, environmental and social preservation as the major provider of health care for these peoples. In addition, he coordinates the medical residency program in neurosurgery at the State University of Pará.

Erik Jennings Simoes Seminar Flier

May 24, 2018

Young African Leaders Speak Out:

Three 2017 YALI fellows stand together with arms around each other's backs.

Preventing Disease, Improving Care, Forging New Solutions for Health

Nine of the 25 Mandela Washington Fellows at the UW-Madison this summer are deeply involved in ensuring health for their countries and communities. Physicians, nurses, community outreach workers and an occupational therapist, they will share their passion to provide health for all, and the innovative ways they are reaching their goals, in a series of three YALI Global Health Seminars: July 10, 17 and 24 from 5 to 6 p.m. in Room 1309 at the Health Sciences Learning Center, 750 Highland Ave. (The HSLC is easily accessible via the #80 bus.)

The evenings will explore a series of topics:

  • July 10: Improving access to care
  • July 17: Preventing disease
  • July 24: Forging new solutions for health

Watch this page for more details about the YALI Global Health Tuesdays.

For the third year in a row, the UW-Madison will host 25 Mandela Washington Fellows  who are part of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. The initiative was launched in 2010 to support young Africans as they spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa.

The fellows visiting Madison aspire to work in all levels of government, regional or international organizations, or other publicly minded groups and think tanks. During their month-long stay, they will learn from Wisconsin’s scholars and professionals and visit government entities, non-profit organizations and businesses across the state.

The fellows, who are 25- to 35-years-old, have established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive change in their organizations, institutions, community and countries.

The Global Health Institute works with the African Studies Program and other campus units to plan the curriculum for the fellows.

Watch this page for more details about the YALI Global Health Tuesdays.

YALI Tuesdays

Graduate•Professional•Capstone Certificates in Global Health open doors for students across campus


For Teresa Caya, who earned her Graduate•Professional Certificate in Global Health while completing her medical degree, the certificate was a way to plan and carry out an infectious disease global health project in Nicaragua. “We live in a world in which disease and poverty do not respect geographic boundaries,” she says. “Better understanding health problems and cultures in other countries helps me to better diagnose and treat patients I see in the United States.”

The certificate showed Johnny Uelmen, who earned his Ph.D. from the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, a new career path. “During my (field experience) in rural Thailand, I was fortunate to meet so many local citizens that were so kind and welcoming,” he says. “Learning about the general fear of arboviral illnesses and the safety of their community inspired me to study diseases in areas of the world that are most affected.”

Johnny Uelmen, who earned his Graduate•Professional Certificate in Global Health, checks for mosquito larvae. Certificate

Across campus. Across the world. Across Wisconsin. The Graduate•Professional•Capstone Certificates in Global Health train students in the classroom and bring them to under-served communities to learn, to share, to grow.

This year’s application deadline is April 30.

Students from programs as diverse as human and veterinary medicine, engineering, nursing, pharmacy, education, anthropology, nutrition, environmental studies and more pursue the certificate as a way to develop marketable skills to work with diverse communities.

“The certificate will broaden your perspective on the meaning of health and well-being in cultures and populations around the world,” says Certificate Director Christopher Olsen. “Certificate students experience first-hand their role as global citizens and their potential as global health leaders.” Olsen explains more about the program in a new three-minute video.

The 9-credit certificate program is open to all UW-Madison graduate students and students in professional programs, including medicine, pharmacy and veterinary medicine. It’s also available to community members who want to know more and contribute to global health. The program includes a field course experience, including faculty-led courses in Thailand, Uganda and Ecuador.

The certificate is offered through the Global Health Institute (GHI) and the Departments of Academic Affairs and Population Health Sciences in the School of Medicine and Public Health. Students can find a detailed description of the certificate and the application form on the GHI website.

The application deadline for 2018-2019 is April 30.


By Ann Grauvogl/ April 5, 2018




Tupesis helps design global health course for health care learners

A new version of “The Practitioner’s Guide to Global Health,” an online, open-access course, is available, says UW Emergency physician Janis Tupesis, the Global Health Institute-Graduate Medical Education liaison, who helped develop and teaches in the program.

The course provides a uniform and comprehensive national education program to help medical students safely and effectively participate in international rotations. It is an open-access course that’s available free-of-charge, Tupesis and his colleagues write in The Journal of Travel Medicine. Gabrielle Jacquet and Suzy Sarfaty from Boston University School of Medicine are co-authors of the Letter to the Editor.

“Many of our institutions were spending a tremendous amount of time putting together these global health programs with administrative components, financial components and logistics,” Tupesis says. “But they were spending little time in actually preparing the learners.”

Global health faculty from many countries and many specialties collaborated to complete the three-part course. It includes three segments:

  • The Big Picture, completed 6 to 12 months in advance of the international experience, looks at what students expect from a global health rotation and what experience will be right for their level of training.
  • Preparation and On the Ground, completed 1 to 3 months in advance of the experience, looks at the logistics of preparing for the trip, including topics from transportation and security to vaccinations and cultural awareness.
  • Reflection, completed near the end of the rotation, gives students tools to prepare to return, It includes information about dealing with unexpected feelings and health issues, and planning for the future.

March 14, 2017


GHI joins Wellcome Trust partnership to transform cities for equity, human and planetary health

A scene looking at the New York skyline after dark with lights on in the buildings.

“With more than half the world’s population now living in cities and projections for further rapid urban growth worldwide, understanding health in the urban environment is even more critical.”—Jonathan Patz

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Global Health Institute (GHI) will help determine how alternative transportation improves health in six international cities as part of a new urban health project funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Wellcome Trust, a global charitable organization based in London, launched the nearly $14 million research partnership in early February to understand how cities around the world can be transformed to equitably support healthier lives while also protecting the planet. The work will be coordinated from London and includes scientists and practitioners from four continents, who will work to provide evidence that helps policy makers and governments take actions to improve health for all in a way that minimizes health inequities.

GHI Director Jonathan Patz is principal investigator for UW-Madison’s partnership in the urban environments portion of the project. The Complex Urban Systems for Sustainability and Health program will use six cities as case studies, focusing on the complex systems that connect urban development and health. It will specifically address challenges in the areas of energy, transport, infrastructure, water, sanitation and housing.

“The Wellcome Trust grant comes out of one of its key programs – Our Planet, Our Health – one of the most important medical foundation investments in projects at the intersection of human health and environmental justice,” Patz says. “With more than half the world’s population now living in cities and projections for further rapid urban growth worldwide, understanding health in the urban environment is even more critical.”

GHI will receive about $250,000 to run model simulations on alternate transportation scenarios, linking them to health outcomes, Patz said. The work is part of GHI’s Health-Oriented Transportation initiative led by assistant research scientist Samuel Younkin. The computer modeling will help determine whether policies that encourage bicycling and walking are likely to be successful and to discover unintended consequences.

By 2050, 70 percent of the world’s population is expected to live in cities. People who live in cities are on average healthier than those living rurally, mainly due to the concentration of economic activity and extensive public services. However, as more and more people are exposed to city life, these services are stretched and stressed, and the urban poor fall behind.

“To date no city has succeeded in implementing a pathway of development that is consistently and demonstrably on track to deliver long-term environment and health goals that fulfil both local needs and the increasingly urgent imperatives for planetary health,” says Professor Michael Davies from the University College London who’s leading the urban environments portion of the partnership. “In this program, we aim to develop system-wide understanding of how those challenges can be addressed through development and implementation of evidence-informed solutions.”

February 27, 2018

Ebola vaccine inches toward human clinical trials

A whole-virus vaccine to confront Ebola, the rare but often fatal hemorrhagic disease that periodically erupts in sub-Saharan Africa, may soon be one step closer to the clinic.

Yoshihiro Kawaoka

With the help of experts at Waisman Biomanufacturing, within the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Waisman Center, UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine Professor Yoshihiro Kawaoka will lead a $3 million effort to produce as many as 1,000 doses of an experimental vaccine that has already been proven to work safely in monkeys.

“The goal is to produce a safe and effective vaccine against Ebola virus for people,” says Kawaoka, a world expert on Ebola and influenza. The vaccine is planned for use in a phase 1 clinical trial in Japan and is the only whole-virus Ebola vaccine candidate under development.

It will be produced at Waisman Biomanufacturing, a specialized facility whose mission is to help translate scientific discovery into early-stage clinical trials. The staff of the facility provides expert help with manufacturing processes, quality control and overall product development in addition to regulatory support.

Ebola virus swarms the surface of a host cell in this electron micrograph. Like most viruses, Ebola requires the help of a host cell to survive and replicate. Photo by Takeshi Noda, University of Tokyo.

“Waisman Biomanufacturing produces many different types of biopharmaceutical products, keeping our range of expertise broad in order to serve any University of Wisconsin investigator who has a biological that they wish to bring into the clinic,” says Carl Ross, the facility’s managing director. “We have made many prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines for use in human clinical trials.”

The technology behind the new Ebola vaccine was devised nearly a decade ago by Peter Halfmann, a research scientist in Kawaoka’s lab who is also an expert on the Ebola virus. It is known as “Delta VP30,” and is a form of Ebola virus that is noninfectious and safe to work with under routine laboratory conditions such as those at Waisman Biomanufacturing. The virus is missing a critical gene – one of only eight genes that make up the virus genome – that makes a protein the virus needs to reproduce in host cells.

Vaccines work by exposing the immune system to viruses or parts of viruses. The Delta VP30-based vaccine may offer better protection against Ebola virus than others in the pipeline, Kawaoka says, because it is a whole-virus vaccine. Other Ebola vaccine candidates use vector viruses to ferry a single Ebola protein, a surface antigen, to prime the immune system.

“Here, we have a whole-virus vaccine that presents all the viral proteins to the immune system, which may result in increased and broadened immune responses compared to vaccines that present only a single viral antigen to the immune system,” Kawaoka explains.

The need for an Ebola vaccine is acute. Periodic outbreaks of the disease in sub-Saharan Africa, including an epidemic between 2013 and 2016, caused major loss of life and serious economic disruption in the three countries where it occurred: Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

The new vaccine project will be the subject of an informational meeting to be held Feb. 27 at 4:30 p.m. at the Friends of the Waisman Center Auditorium on the first floor of the West Annex. The Waisman Center is located at 1500 Highland Ave. Free parking is available after 4:30 p.m. in Lot 82, behind the Waisman Center and accessible from Highland Avenue.

By Terry Devitt, University Communications/ February 21, 2018

This story was first published at

Saving our planet to save ourselves

Howard Frumkin looks at challenges and opportunities in planetary health

What do you believe in? Leaving a livable world for our children and grandchildren? Not wasting what we’ve been given? Responsibility?

Likely, you believe in all three. For Howard Frumkin, professor and former dean of the University of Washington School of Public Health and former director of the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, finding those shared beliefs is critical to moving beyond ideological divides to ensure planetary health for humans as well as the world we live in.

Frumkin will discuss “Planetary Health: Protecting Our World to Protect Ourselves,” at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, February 15, in the Great Hall at Memorial Union. A panel of University of Wisconsin-Madison science and humanities scholars—Lyric Bartholomay from Veterinary Medicine, Maureen Durkin from Population Health Sciences, Rick Keller from the International Division, Gregg Mitman from Medical History and the Nelson Institute, Jonathan Patz from the Global Health Institute (GHI) and Monica White from Environmental Sociology and the Nelson Institute—will respond to his remarks.

The free program will be followed by a paid reception. All are welcome. Registration is requested. The evening is hosted by the UW-Madison Global Health Institute and co-sponsored by the International Division, Office of Sustainability and Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

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