January 18, 2022

Kolars to lead board of international global health organization

The world’s largest academic global health conference is fast approaching, and with it a leadership change that will find a U-M faculty member in a top organizational role.

The Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH) will host its annual meeting March 28 through April 1, at which time Senior Associate Dean for Education and Global Initiatives Joseph Kolars will become Chair of the CUGH Board of Directors, providing oversight and guiding strategy for the organization with its 170 member institutions around the world.

Joseph C. Kolars photo
Joseph C. Kolars, MD, MACP

While Kolars has been involved in CUGH since its inception in 2009, he assumes the Chair position at a critical time. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancelation of the CUGH conference in 2020 and a shift to a virtual format last year.

“One of the major focuses for the Board is to make CUGH more accessible to our colleagues in LMICs,” said Kolars, MD, MACP, who will transition from Vice Chair to the Chair of the board at the conclusion of this year’s conference. “Ironically, our need to forgo in-person meetings for virtual sessions has provided some valuable insights about engaging members in these settings.”

CUGH 2021 enjoyed record-high registration and participation from attendees outside of the US and Canada. The conference’s switch to a virtual format—and the impact on attendance—is the subject of a forthcoming paper authored by Kolars and other CUGH leaders.

“We speculate that the inconvenience of traveling and associated costs of attending in-person meetings posed barriers to attendance, particularly for those outside of the US,” Kolars said.

Prior to COVID-19, the most recent CUGH conferences have taken place in Washington, D.C., New York City and Chicago. This year’s event, which had originally been slated to take place in Los Angeles, will once again be held entirely online. The theme for the 2022 meeting: Healthy People, Healthy Planet and Social Justice.

A longtime member of CUGH, the University of Michigan is typically visible at the meeting, with numerous affiliated poster and panel presentations from faculty from medicine, public health, nursing and more.

“Expanding CUGH to be inclusive of other fields is another goal,” Kolars said. “The ability to connect people across both disciplines and geography is one of the most exciting aspects of CUGH. We want to be a resource for the entire global health community—and make sure that community is truly representative of the places where we’re trying to make an impact.”