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Yale Institute for Global Health Brings Researchers Together to Improve World Health

Yale Public Health Magazine, Yale Public Health: Fall 2022
by Kenneth Best

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The Yale Institute for Global Health (YIGH) is the focal point for global health at Yale, bringing together expertise and knowledge from across campus and around the world. YIGH drives Yale’s global health mission by fostering collaboration across disciplines and seizing opportunities for innovation to speed the translation of new scientific discoveries into better health for all. 

“YIGH is at the intersection of intellectual rigor, experience, and creativity where collaboration with partners around the world inspires ideas and solutions to our world’s health challenges,” said Saad Omer, MBBS, MPH, PhD, FIDSA, director of YIGH. “Innovation comes from any—and everywhere, making YIGH one of the most impactful scientific exchanges, particularly with colleagues in low- and middle-income countries.” 

YIGH is at the intersection of intellectual rigor, experience, and creativity where collaboration with partners around the world inspires ideas and solutions to our world’s health challenges.

Saad Omer

Sten Vermund, MD, the Anna M.R. Lauder Professor of Public Health and Professor of Pediatrics in the Yale School of Medicine, led the effort to launch YIGH while serving as dean of the Yale School of Public Health from February 2017 to July 2022. He had previously directed similar global health initiatives at the University of Alabama (Birmingham) and Vanderbilt University. 

After arriving at YSPH, Vermund reached out to nursing school Dean Ann Kurth, MPH, PhD, the Linda Koch Lorimer Professor of Nursing, and Robert Rohrbaugh, MD ’82, associate dean for global health education at YSM, to discuss bringing Yale’s global health initiatives under a single entity. 

“It makes sense to have an umbrella institution because you can be working in the same country as a colleague and not know each other’s work,” Vermund said. “You can be traveling back and forth to that country and not know that a colleague could benefit immensely from your knowledge and experience.” 

One of the ways YIGH fosters collaboration is through its Faculty Support Initiative and Faculty Networks. These efforts facilitate global health funding and offer tailored global health resources and learning opportunities for YIGH-affiliated faculty across Yale. YIGH Faculty Networks include faculty with combined expertise in priority global health topics such as malaria, noncommunicable diseases, vaccines, global surgery, maternal-child mental health, and more. 

The institute also recognizes innovative faculty research teams with its annual Hecht awards. 

The awards, which provide up to $50,000 in funding, are intended to support and encourage collaborative new initiatives addressing global health. Faculty from the Yale Schools of Public Health, Medicine, Nursing, Environment, and Architecture were among this year’s winners. Projects funded in 2022 address climate change and urban health, substance use disorder and mental health, and the relationship between food insecurity and hypertension. 

“Over the past few years, the YIGH Faculty Network program has seen significant growth and we now have a portfolio of networks tackling some of the greatest global health challenges,” said Jeremy Schwartz, MD, associate professor of medicine and epidemiology and YIGH Faculty Network development leader. “The Hecht Global Health Faculty Network Award has provided a great incentive and structure for networks to coalesce around innovative and important ideas.” 

One of those who has benefited from YIGH support is YSPH Assistant Professor Amy Bei, PhD. 

A member of MalarYale, YIGH’s multidisciplinary faculty research group focused on tackling malaria, Bei said her collaborations with MalarYale’s faculty network led by Sunil Parikh, MD, MPH, Michael Cappello, MD, and others helped her expand a research initiative beyond her extensive research in Senegal to gain a better picture of genetic diversity in malaria vaccine candidate antigens across Africa. Understanding the functional role of genetic diversity in new vaccine antigens is critical to the development of a malaria vaccine. 

In pursuit of this goal, Bei received a YIGH Spark award. The award provides seed funding to help researchers pursue important projects, apply for larger grants, and advance their careers. As a result of the combined research and fiscal support she received from YIGH, Bei was able to secure a much larger R01 grant for her project from the National Institutes of Health. R01 grants fund mature research projects that are hypothesis-driven. 

“The Spark award provided the necessary resources to generate preliminary data that ultimately resulted in my first R01 to be funded,” said Bei. “I believe it tipped the scales in that the first submission requested additional preliminary data and we were able to generate it thanks to the Spark funds.” 

YIGH is at the intersection of intellectual rigor, experience, and creativity where collaboration with partners around the world inspires ideas and solutions to our world’s health challenges.

Saad Omer
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