MSIH Hosts Bellagio Global Health Education Conference

In November 2016, The Bellagio Global Health Education Initiative (BGHEI) took place at MSIH to discuss how to best incorporate Global Health studies into an M.D. curriculum. The three-day gathering was a Bellagio Center Conference — a program of the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center — and brought together experts from around the world to discuss global health and medical education. It was the third meeting of the initiative and the first held in Israel.

MSIH Global Health Education Coordinator Mike Diamond was asked to present the MSIH curriculum to the conference. These are his observations:

“When you live in a geographically isolated country like Israel, it’s often difficult to view things in perspective. We peer across at Europe and the U.S. and assume that older societies are way ahead of us in almost everything. We’ve only been around for 70 years, so we don’t realistically expect to be pioneers.”

Diamond was speaking a few days after the Conference, still a little surprised by the reception the MSIH curriculum received.

“Although I’ve been involved with MSIH for more than 10 years, I’m not a physician. I wasn’t educated in medicine and my first exposure to medical education was at MSIH. I knew we were different, but I had no idea just how revolutionary we are.”

BGHEI brings together a diverse group of global health education leaders from high-, middle- and low-income countries to establish the groundwork for a universal curriculum for global health and challenge educators and institutional participants to rethink traditional concepts. About 20 international participants traveled to Beer-Sheva, Israel, in November 2016 to continue their ongoing dialogue.

“Many medical schools today offer a course or two in global health,” explains Diamond. “These courses are usually electives and are relatively isolated from the rest of the curriculum. It was only when I presented the MSIH global health program at the conference that I realized how much our little school has developed a comprehensive global health program that’s way beyond anything offered elsewhere.”

Diamond was asked by conference organizer Dr. Carmi Margolis to present the curriculum for 15 minutes.

“I was on my feet for over an hour, fending off questions from global health experts who had never seen anything like MISH. In effect, for the last 18 years, we’ve been developing and implementing what other schools have are just beginning to introduce. We’re the only medical school in the world with global health integrated into all four years of medical studies, and conference delegates were seeing for the first time an implementation of what they’ve been discussing academically since the initiative’s inception.”

In the first year, MISH offers an introductory course in global health — and each year builds on previous knowledge. Global health at MSIH is not an elective — it’s a fundamental part of the curriculum.

MSIH was established in 1998 and has graduated more than 500 physicians — many today working in global health across the globe. The school is affiliated with Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, and several senior lecturers from Columbia attend the school each year to present courses.

In the field of global health, students studying at MSIH are exposed to subjects as diverse as disaster management, poverty and health, travel medicine, migration and health, and more. Eight weeks of fourth-year studies at MSIH take place in clinical environments in resource-scarce settings, like Nepal, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia and elsewhere.

The Bellagio Conference also drew back to MSIH several of the school’s graduates, including Dr. Tobin Greensweig (2006), currently a resident at Indiana University, and Dr. Jeremy Fowler (2006), who popped across the border from Jordan where he is currently medical director at the Anoor Sanatorium for Chest Diseases in Mafraq.

“When MSIH students present for residency interviews,” explains Diamond, “their extensive worldly experience and understanding of global issues makes quite an impression on the interviewers. It’s no wonder we get match rates similar to top U.S. schools.”