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