Simpson to Direct New Office of Global Health
Feb. 27, 2012 | A new Office of Global Health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) will serve as a resource for international education, service and research opportunities for UAMS employees and students.
(from left) UAMS pathologists Bruce Smoller, M.D., Nicole Massoll, M.D., join Don Simpson, Ph.D., chairman of the UAMS Department of Laboratory Sciences, on a trip to the African country of Namibia to assist with creation of a laboratory sciences program at a school there.
Don Simpson, Ph.D., M.P.H., chair of the Department of Laboratory Sciences in the UAMS College of Health Related Professions, was named director of the new office. Simpson is a veteran of medical mission trips to Haiti and academic development efforts in Africa and Saudi Arabia.
As director, his duties will include coordination of service efforts by UAMS employees and students in developing countries; helping develop educational exchanges for UAMS and foreign students; and assisting researchers in making contacts for studying health problems affecting the developing world and health care delivery mechanisms for underserved areas.
Creation of the Office of Global Health fits with the UAMS mission to undertake activities that improve health and health care. Supporting service efforts abroad may lead to improvements in health care in Arkansas; promotes the importance and rewards of service; and serves as a recruitment tool for students and faculty, said UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D.
“UAMS has a long reputation for involvement in global health efforts, whether it is a faculty member volunteering time for a medical mission after a natural disaster or a student taking advantage of a service opportunity abroad to enhance his or her education,” Rahn said. “Establishing this office formalizes the university’s commitment to ensure these efforts are effective and to define our strengths in the area of global health.”
The Office of Global Health will bring together work being done already across UAMS. It will assist with development of educational programs related to global health and fostering relationships with other universities or organizations that could lead to faculty exchanges or collaborations.
The office will assist those wanting to participate in international programs in finding safe and appropriate educational locations, obtaining funding and insurance, and dealing with other issues that may arise. The office will report to Jeanne Heard, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for academic affairs.
“UAMS did not previously have a central point of contact or unified effort for those involved in global health initiatives or programs,” Heard said. “This office will give us focus in an area of health that has seen increased interest recently among health care institutions, professionals and students across the nation.”
Creating the office was a point in the UAMS Vision 2020 strategic plan.
On campus, the office will serve in an advisory role for issues related to international students and faculty members. There are now 81 countries represented at UAMS.
Simpson has served since 2007 as chair of the Department of Laboratory Sciences – which includes the cytotechnology and laboratory sciences programs – in the UAMS College of Health Related Professions. He first joined the UAMS faculty in 1992 as an associate director of research for the Department of Emergency Medicine in the UAMS College of Medicine. A board-registered cytotechnologist, Simpson was named director of the cytotechnology program in 2004.
He said that his interest in global health sparked while participating in an undergraduate summer program in Mexico. While at UAMS, Simpson traveled to Namibia, Africa, where he worked with the Polytechnic of Namibia to establish that country’s first Bachelor of Science in biomedical sciences program. He also has worked to successfully license the UAMS laboratory sciences curriculum to the King Saud Bin Abdulaziz University of Health Sciences in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
“The thing that makes global health ‘global’ is the concern with the way populations are connected, how health risks are transferred across borders and the impact of globalization on patterns of health, disease and social determinants,” Simpson said.
Simpson added: “I believe this is a two-way street: as an academic institution we provide and we receive and these global health activities will enrich the intellectual health of our institution. New partnerships will be created and we will learn from our global communities in ways that will positively impact UAMS and Arkansas.”