Monday, October 10, 2011

Guest Commentary: International Collaboration with Universidad CES, Medellín, Colombia

Rob Simmons, DrPH, MPH, MCHES, CPH
Director, MPH Program
Jefferson School of Population Health

This past August, I had the opportunity to spend three weeks in Medellín, Colombia at Universidad CES representing the Jefferson School of Population Health (JSPH). CES is an acronym for the “City of Eternal Spring” in English and is an indication of the temperate climate of Medellín, Colombia’s second largest city with a population of over 4 million. Universidad CES was founded 34 years ago by a group of Colombian physicians who wanted to establish a private, health science university with an emphasis on medical, dental, mental and veterinary medicine, and allied health education. Universidad CES has three large clinical entities in the region, including a major hospital in downtown Medellín, and has expanded its undergraduate and graduate education programs in the biosciences, physical therapy, public health, and most recently, health law. Enrollment currently stands at approximately 2700 students.

Universidad CES is considered the top university in the health sciences in Colombia and served as host to representatives of the US CDC Center for Global Health during my visit. Similar to the JSPH, one of its areas of focus is health care quality and safety, and CES holds an annual conference for health care professionals in South and Central America each fall.

In 2008, I had the opportunity to visit Universidad CES for a day and shared information about Thomas Jefferson University and our plans for a new school of population health. Over the past two years, the Jefferson School of Population Health has returned the favor and has hosted Dr. Julián Osorio, the Dean of the CES Medical School, Dr. Oscar Saldarriaga, its Director of International Relations, and one of its medical students. In the interest of collaboration, I was asked to come to Medellín to provide training and technical assistance for program directors and faculty.

During my stay at Universidad CES, I provided training on the infusion of public and community health education and practice in their medical education, presented an overview of the US public health and healthcare systems, provided a framework and resources for expansion of their global health prevention initiatives, and met with researchers on preventive health research opportunities in Colombia and the Americas.

At the conclusion of my visit, we discussed future collaborative opportunities between Universidad CES and Thomas Jefferson University and, particularly, the Jefferson School of Population Health. These could include student and faculty exchanges, collaborative research opportunities, and joint professional education symposia in-person and via satellite in both Philadelphia and Medellín. David Nash, JSPH Dean, has been invited to be the keynote speaker at one of CES’s annual international conferences on Quality and Safety in the future. I look forward to working with Universidad CES and helping build future collaborative health initiatives between our two universities.

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