On September 26, nearly 300 patients, physicians, medical trainees, and supporters of the Global Health Initiative (GHI) Fund at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine came together at The Peninsula Chicago to celebrate impact. This year’s event was particularly special as it marked the 10-year anniversary of the GHI, which was established by Robert J. Havey, MD, associate professor of Clinical Medicine, to provide resources for global health research initiatives and education programs that benefit medical students, residents, fellows, and faculty members at Feinberg.
“The Global Health Initiative transforms our students, enhances our research abilities, and touches the lives of hundreds of thousands of people,” said Dr. Havey. “By next year, 1,000 of our Northwestern medical trainees will have traveled on GHI-funded trips to more than 40 countries worldwide, including underserved areas right here in the United States. Thanks to the support of everyone in this room tonight, Northwestern became and remains the number one medical school in the country in global health rotations.”
Since 2008, the GHI has raised over $7 million. Dr. Havey and his fellow faculty physicians at Northwestern Medicine Primary & Specialty Care have given generously of their resources and time to support and propel the vision of the GHI.
The world population is exploding, going from 1.5 billion people in the late 1800s to over 7 billion today. By the year 2025, it will grow to 8 billion.
“Since only about 20 percent of the world has access to modern healthcare, this population expansion means that more and more people contract illnesses that don’t just cause increased mortality, but more often cause chronic disabilities,” said Dr. Havey. “This prevents more than a billion people from working and contributing to the economies of their families and communities. The global economic burden resulting from this early death and prolonged disability will grow to over $40 trillion by 2030.”
Transforming Global Health Education and Research
Benefit Dinner attendees heard from Steven J. Schuetz, ’09, ’13 MD, who is currently in the fifth year of his general surgery residency training at Northwestern. Dr. Schuetz has personally benefited from the GHI Fund, which supported a large portion of the 14 trips he has taken to Bolivia over the last nine years. Dr. Schuetz is currently working on the Bolivia Cancer Initiative, which was developed in partnership with leading Bolivian oncologists and public health experts. The initiative focuses on two initial building blocks: implementing Bolivia-specific national cancer guidelines, and then improving psychosocial support for cancer patients and their families.
“Quality and responsible global health depend on sustainable international collaborations,” said Dr. Schuetz. “We can create truly sustainable programs only if we understand the local culture and local health systems, and establish programs that easily integrate into the local setting.”
In addition to the realm of education, the GHI has had a profound effect on global health research. The GHI has created eight Global Health Faculty Catalyzer awards, four of which are focused in primary care.
These awards are bestowed to faculty with novel global health research ideas. In addition, the Fund supports visiting international research fellows from under-resourced countries, allowing them to travel to Northwestern and collaborate with Feinberg faculty. These visiting fellows then return to their counties, equipped with new knowledge and skills to disseminate to their local medical providers.
“The GHI is more than just a medical school effort, and more than just a university priority. It is an ideal and a reality that Chicago and the world can admire,” said Bill Kurtis, renowned anchor and the event’s emcee. “Northwestern, which is one of the top medical schools and centers in the world, is wholly committed to creating and sustaining viable solutions for our world’s health problems,” he said.
In addition to his role as emcee at the Benefit Dinner each year, Mr. Kurtis and his wife, Donna, give of their time and talents to produce an annual video to highlight the impactful work of those supported by the GHI.
An Institute for Global Health at Northwestern
Eric G. Neilson, MD, vice president for Medical Affairs and Lewis Landsberg Dean of Feinberg, shared remarks in celebration of the GHI’s landmark anniversary. He also took the opportunity to make a special announcement about the future of global health at Northwestern.
“Tonight, I am formally announcing the launch of a dedicated capital campaign within We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern Medicine to create an Institute for Global Health,” said Dr. Neilson. “We envision an Institute with nine distinct centers aimed at critical healthcare needs in low-resource areas around the world. This truly will be an institute like no other in the world, and we hope to raise an endowment to be sure that it is built to last."
Dr. Neilson continued, “Global health is one of the highest priorities for our medical school and University as we train the next generation of global leaders and physicians.”
Northwestern is the fastest growing medical center in the country in terms of National Institutes of Health funding, going from 39th place in 2002 to 16th place in 2016. In the past year, there were 4,488 ongoing research studies taking place, and there are plans to recruit 80 new research faculty over the next five years. Northwestern also houses a state-of-the-art Electronic Data Warehouse (EDW), which was created to store information about patient encounters. This easily retrievable data provides a powerful tool for research faculty to quickly solve a variety of problems.
“Imagine what we could accomplish in our global health work if we utilize the power of our EDW and the expertise of our rapidly growing research faculty,” said Dr. Havey. “Having seen what we have done in just the past 10 years through the work of the GHI, I have no doubt that this Institute for Global Health will become the world leader in finding solutions to many of the problems we’ve discussed tonight.”
Global Health Initiative Host Committee
John W. Madigan
J. Christopher Reyes
Patrick G. Ryan
John F. Sandner