University of Vermont

Global Health Program Takes Shape at the College of Medicine

Majid Sadigh, M.D.
Majid Sadigh, M.D., during a recent global health evening at the College of Medicine. (Photo by Alec Jacobson)

University of Vermont medical students interested in conducting research or completing an elective rotation in a different country are starting to fan out to sites across the world as part of the new Global Health program with Danbury Hospital/ Western Connecticut Health Network (WCHN).

The program kicked off with a series of global health evenings during the 2012-13 academic year, hosted by Majid Sadigh, M.D., UVM clinical associate professor of medicine and director of Global Health at UVM College of Medicine clinical affiliate Danbury Hospital/WCHN. The evening programs, which continue this year on a monthly basis, are designed to explore different topics related to global health, as well as to keep students, faculty and staff up-to-date with developments in the program. The most recent global health evening was November 11 in the Sullivan Classroom. David Chia, M.D., assistant director of global health at WCHN, and Kyendamina Cleophace Mukeba, founder of the Vermont Ibutwa Initiative, were the guest speakers.

For medical students interested in studying abroad, Sadigh has worked with the College of Medicine to formalize the application process and create partnerships with sites, including the Uganda Cancer Institute in Kampala; Kazan State Medical University in Kazan, Russia; College of Health Sciences in Harare, Zimbabwe, and Cho Ray Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. Students use a standardized application to apply to the different sites; they also submit three letters of recommendation and detail their language knowledge and previous experiences abroad. Students rank their top three choices for location, and a selection committee matches students with the site most suited to their needs and experience. The deadline for applications for global health study in 2014-15 is November 4. A College of Medicine global health website is in the works to detail the application process and opportunities for study.

First-year students may apply for a summer research month at any of the sites, while fourth-year students are eligible for a six-week or longer elective. Before leaving the U.S., students are required to attend two pre-departure orientation sessions, complete tropical medicine workshops, and attend several global health evenings. Plane tickets, tuition, and accommodations are paid for by the program.

Sadigh has stressed that the objective is to create long-lasting partnerships that not only help to shape students’ medical education, but also benefit practitioners and students at the various global health sites. Eventually, one goal is to have students and physicians from the sites also train and study in Vermont. Sadigh works with a site coordinator at each location; they are typically junior faculty members committed to the position for at least two years. Many come to Danbury Hospital for training.

Second-year students Taylor Goller and Karl Kristiansen were the first College of Medicine students to study through the global health program; they spent one month this summer at the Uganda Cancer Institute. Fourth-year student Hany Abdallah returned from Vietnam in early October, and fourth-year Chelsea Harris arrived in Uganda at the beginning of October and will be there through mid-November. Several more students have applied for electives abroad in January and February. UVM faculty and residents are eligible for study as well; Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences Anne Dougherty, M.D.’09, returns from Uganda in mid-November. Not only do students work in the hospitals and clinics, they experience life outside the hospital through home-stays and trips to cultural landmarks, and participation in language classes and other activities.

Read more about the first two College of Medicine students to study in Uganda.
Read a New York Times article about the Uganda Cancer Institute. It quotes Fred Okuku, M.B.Ch.B., M.M.E.D., an oncologist at UCI who is a mentor to College of Medicine students studying there.
To RSVP for the November 11 global health evening, email Audree Frey at