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Student voices an issue

Graduate students are pushing to make their voices heard in the newly approved Department of Global Health.

Among their concerns is that the department may not be physically located on the UW campus. They are also pushing to make sure the department incorporates all aspects of global health -- from vaccine development and disease prevention to political intervention.

"All those factors are necessary for a global-health program to have an impact on the health problems in developing countries," said Andrew Bryant, a graduate student in the health services department.

He and other students are seeking a multidisciplinary approach to the issues. Without this, the primary focus of the department would be vaccine development -- a necessary part, but one that uses a lot of resources, Bryant said.

Issues Bryant said could be neglected include developing healthcare infrastructures and addressing the "brain-drain" phenomenon -- when a country loses its best academics to Western nations.

The UW leased space for the department on South Lake Union, which could be inconvenient for students and make the department less able to interact with other University disciplines, Bryant said.

"It takes the focus away from being a multidisciplinary department," said Mina Halpern, another graduate student in the health services department. "It's a big geographic barrier, even though it's only a mile away."

A Feb. 8 GPSS resolution urged the UW to locate the department on or near campus, include students in the department chair selection process and put more emphasis on feedback and openness.

"There was some concern about whether there was enough student participation in the process," said GPSS president Adam Grupp. "I think that we have an open line of communication and I think that was the most important part of this resolution."

When the committee formed in late 2004, one of its main purposes was to survey support and gather input from the campus community.

"It would always be great to have more and more student voice," said Maneesh Batra, student representative to the chair search committee.

Batra said student input was "featured very prominently in the report by the committee."

The Board of Regents approved the department last month after it was granted $20 million by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

An open forum was held last Monday with Wahl and dean of medicine Paul Ramsey. The deans sent out open letters to students describing the chair selection process. Bryant said the department chair will be a key part of whether the department will have a broad perspective on global health, which he advocates.

Three candidates for department chair have been selected. Two, Lawrence Corey and Steven Gloyd, are UW professors. Michael Merson, the third candidate, is a former dean of public health at Yale University. Ramsey and Wahl will ultimately choose the new chair.

Bryant said the new department marks an opportunity for the UW and the global-health field.

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