Despite ongoing travel restrictions, Residents and Fellows for Global Health Equity managed to expand its reach and its programs in 2021. And with a newly launched website and new offerings coming online early next year, the group is poised to offer even more support for Michigan Medicine physicians trainees exploring opportunities in global health.
“While the pandemic created logistical challenges, it also put a spotlight on all of these health equity issues. At the same time, there are significant racial and social justice conversations taking place across the country as well,” said RFGHE co-Chair Tessa Adzemovic, MD, MS. “Trainees want to be part of those conversations, and it was important for us to create a broader community across our institution for them to engage in a meaningful way.”
Not surprisingly, the pandemic saw the group pivot to more virtual events for its monthly speaker series, a format that presented opportunities to engage speakers offsite. Invited speakers have joined the sessions from Ann Arbor, Flint, Baltimore, Boston, and even France.
“We had one speaker coming to us from Nigeria, which probably wouldn’t have happened if we had been still focused on in-person events,” said Adzemovic, an Internal Medicine-Pediatrics resident. “In that sense, we’ve been able to broaden our scope.”
Topics over the course of 2021 ranged from Native American healthcare; caring for patients living with HIV in India; how COVID has impacted rural healthcare in the US; the impact of US drug policies on the opioid crisis; and more.
In the fall, the group rolled out a new website where a number of resources are available, including prior event replays. Site visitors can find information about the global health offerings across Michigan Medicine, electives available to house officers, some funding opportunities, and more.
“The site is a way to bring together resources and highlight ongoing activities,” said Ophthalmology resident Otana Jakpor, who put the site together. “We’d been doing things primarily by email but it’s nice to have a more permanent place.”
Even in normal times it can be a challenge to coordinate an off-site elective during residency, and the pandemic made it even more complex. Still, the year saw the continuation of the group’s engagement with the Hope Clinic in Westland, which provides care for underserved populations, and the introduction of an elective for international work offered through Physicians for Human Rights. New for 2022 is a global health certificate program for house officers, to entail readings, a speaker series throughout the year, and completion of a capstone project with guidance from a faculty mentor.
“Between the lecture series, the new programming, and the website, it’s one of the most productive years we’ve had. It’s a testament to the leadership within the group,” said John Del Valle, MD, Professor of Internal Medicine and Vice Chair of Graduate Medical Education. Del Valle serves as advisor to the group and has long been an advocate for creating global health opportunities for trainees.
“I think more than ever, we’re seeing a young generation of physicians who have a tremendous sense of the social detriments of healthcare and the needs across the spectrum,” he said. “As an institution, it is important to support them so they are able to embrace their interest and continue to develop as leaders.”