Two U Public Health Professors Help Dedicate New Guinea Program

Two U Public Health Professors Help Dedicate New Guinea Program

Sep 13, 2004 6:00 PM

Salt Lake City--Two faculty members from the Public Health Program at the University of Utah School of Medicine returned this morning from Papua New Guinea (PNG), where they'd been asked to deliver the keynote address at the launching of the Public Health Association of Papua New Guinea.

George L. White Jr., Ph.D., MSPH, professor and director of the Public Health Program, and Stephen C. Alder, Ph.D., assistant professor and director of graduate studies, were invited to be keynote speakers at the launching of the PNG Association for Public Health at the University of Papua New Guinea at Port Moresby. The Association is the equivalent of the American Public Health Association.

Besides delivering the keynote address, White and Alder hosted presentations at a three-day medical symposium and international scientific meeting for public health held in conjunction with the launching. "It is a tremendous compliment to our Public Health Program that they would invite us to participate," said Alder. "We're excited to establish a partnership where we can work together to the benefit of both parties. Academically and from a research standpoint, this association is a good fit for us."

Top PNG government officials, including Minister for Health Nicholas Mann, welcomed White and Alder to the country. They also met with Prime Minister Sir Michael T. Somare. "They're anxious to establish a partnership with the Public Health Program at the University of Utah," Alder said.

The opportunity to establish a collaborative research program, such as studying resistance patterns in malaria parasites, is another benefit of this association, according to White.

"We hope to establish a data collection system in PNG villages to study the treatment regimens of various tropical diseases, especially malaria," he said. "Interestingly, PNG is where the first chloroquine-resistant strain of malaria was discovered."

The movement of people and products across borders has increased in volume and speed, giving birth to an increased risk of disease transmission internationally. The U of U--PNG partnership also will expand knowledge of the global nature of disease, White said.

"This global 'connectedness' is a fundamental component in understanding public health in the 21st century," he said. "Our new association with PNG, coupled with our recent Thailand experience, provides an excellent opportunity for our students to develop essential public health competencies that work in an international setting as well as helping us in Utah."

Public Health Program students and faculty have done an extensive amount of international public health service and training this year. In January, Alder led a team of students to Mali, West Africa, to assess public health problems in that developing country. At the invitation of the U.S. Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, clinical professor of public health A. Dean Byrd, Ph.D., M.B.A., M.P.H., lectured in May on the social and cultural context of public health challenges at the School of Public Health at the University of Kinshasa School of Medicine. In July, a group of Public Health and Utah Physician Assistant Program students and faculty spent four weeks studying infectious diseases in Thailand.

The University of Utah's Public Health Program is a graduate-level program ranked sixth in the nation in U.S. News & World Report's "2004 Annual Graduate School Ranking" issue. Part of the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine in the University of Utah School of Medicine, the program this year launched a doctorate program and is continually expanding its curriculum to meet the global challenges of today and tomorrow. The Public Health Program has some 800 alumni, many of whom hold key positions in government, private, and public health organizations.

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