January 13, 2022

Expanding possibilities: JI session highlights programs, faculty focused on global health

A recent global health-focused seminar between U-M faculty and colleagues in China finds the Joint Institute exploring collaborations in new directions.

Held on January 10, the virtual discussion featured faculty from the University of Michigan as well as the Peking University Health Science Center (PKUHSC) Department of Global Health, including Fuqiang Cui, a Professor of Laboratorial Science and Technology, Director for Vaccine Research Center, and the Interim Chair of Global Health.

“This is a very good opportunity to share information and to pursue collaborations in the future. Peking University has done a lot of good research on global health education and inequity issues, and we look at this as an opportunity to discuss with U-M colleagues about health equity issues,” Cui said.

Established in 2012, PKUHSC’s Global Health Department, part of the university’s School of Public Health, was the first of its kind in China to offer a global health program for graduate students. Today, the department includes 12 faculty with a variety of research interests and ongoing projects in places like Malawi, Myanmar and Georgia.

Three PKUHSC faculty presented on their work during the session, researchers with projects studying behavioral health issues like smoking; links between particulate air pollution and diseases; and disability programs among aging populations.

From U-M, John Ayanian, Director of the Institute for Health Policy and Innovation, discussed health inequities in the United States; Professor of Environmental Health Sciences Chuanwu Xi detailed his work on water quality issues in places like Qatar and Peru; and Ann Chih Lin, Director of the Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies, introduced the center and its role in facilitating multi-disciplinary collaborations between U-M faculty and Chinese counterparts.

Since its launch in 2010, the Joint Institute has funded more than 60 individual research projects to date across a number of disciplines within medicine, from liver and cardiovascular diseases to maternal health and psychology issues. In recent years, JI leaders have looked to expand collaborations to faculty beyond the U-M medical school. The recent session, co-sponsored by the U-M Center for Global Health Equity, was an initial step in that direction.

“The purpose of this conversation is to really understand mutual interests in global health, particularly around the concept of equity, so as to advance collaboration and scholarly opportunities between our institutions,” said Joe Kolars, Senior Associate Dean for Education and Global Initiatives at UMMS and director of both the JI and the Center for Global Health Equity. “We’re excited about the opportunity to share and have what I hope to be the first of many discussions about the kinds of things we could do together.”