Clinical research fellows educate lawmakers on value of global HIV/TB programs

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Eleven current and former Fogarty International and Doris Duke clinical research fellows made their way to Capitol Hill Thursday for congressional office visits with key legislators.

Four Fogarty fellows and the Center's Christine Lubinski meet with a staff member from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The Center for Global Health Policy staff escorted the group to meetings with the offices of 15 policymakers. The fellows highlighted their research experience abroad through the Fogarty and Doris Duke programs, the first of which is funded through the National Institutes of Health, emphasizing the value of U.S. investment in global HIV and tuberculosis programs.

The Fogarty International and Doris Duke clinical research fellowships send medical students and young physicians with an interest in global health to sites in the developing world to perform a year of hands-on clinical research training. The U.S. fellows who participated in the Hill visits had spent their year abroad either in Uganda, South Africa, Thailand or Malawi. Their research projects ranged from monitoring antiretroviral treatment adherence among female South African patients with the use of text messaging and SMS, to evaluating treatment outcomes for Kaposi’s sarcoma patients undergoing combination chemotherapy for advanced or persistent disease in Malawi.

The Fogarty program, which started in 2003, uses what is called “twinning” to match the visiting U.S. scholars with in-country medical students and physicians, helping the fellows to integrate into the system more quickly.  Four foreign nationals joined in the day of Hill meetings. These fellows hailed from South Africa, Kenya, Zambia and Peru.

The scholars brought various issues to the table when meeting with legislators, like the linkages between HIV and cancer risks and the impact of HIV on maternal and child health.. They also spoke about the intrinsic value of international physician fellowship programs, which support U.S. foreign assistance by increasing the training of in-country physicians and building health infrastructure abroad. They also support the treatment and research education of U.S. doctors that take what they learn abroad and bring it back to improve patient care in the U.S., including a new awareness of how to treat refugees and new immigrants from other countries.

“These experiences broaden how doctors will approach patient care and the ethos of training,” said Doris Duke fellow Andrea Dean, a medical student at Brown University who spent her fellowship year in South Africa.

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