Dr. Donna M. Christensen has been named to the founding advisory board of the new School of Global Health at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee.
The school is the first of its kind in the United States, according to a press release announcing the board members. Founded in 1876, Meharry Medical College is the nation’s largest private, independent historically Black academic health sciences center dedicated solely to educating minority and other health professionals.
The School of Global Health at Meharry will foster collaboration among emerging health leaders, allowing them to strategize beyond conventional boundaries to protect vulnerable, underserved and under-resourced communities around the world, the release stated.
Meharry has begun the process to recruit faculty, engage partners and secure accreditation for the School of Global Health, and anticipates beginning to enroll students in the fall of 2024, it said.
Christensen, who served as the V.I. delegate to Congress from 1997 until 2015, said she is thrilled at the appointment.
“As the first female physician member of Congress, my work greatly focused on the intersection of medicine, public health and policy, which very much aligns with the core principles of the Institute of Global Health Equity,” said Christensen.
“Meharry’s future School of Global Health is primed to be a center for health equity innovation at a historically Black institution that has been a leader in responding to health inequities for over a century and a half. I am thrilled to be a part of something so special that will leave a lasting and meaningful mark on the advancement of the health equity movement,” she said.
The school is an outgrowth of the Institute of Global Health Equity, which Meharry launched in February, according to the release. The Meharry Board of Trustees unanimously approved Meharry establishing the School of Global Health at a meeting in October.
Meharry also announced members of the School’s Founding Board of Advisors, which is made up of experts from across industries, including two former surgeon generals of the United States. They will work together to ensure the School of Global Health is a competitive and innovative institution for future students and entrepreneurs.
“As we establish our School of Global Health we are working diligently to take a multidisciplinary approach and bring together world-class experts, researchers and educators with a shared commitment to make global health inequities history,” said Daniel Dawes, senior vice president and executive director of the Meharry Institute of Global Health Equity.
“As founding dean, my goal is to actualize, operationalize and optimize equitable solutions and responses to our most complex health issues. And with the support and guidance of this brilliant group of health equity experts and champions on our founding advisory board, we are confident that their expertise will help us achieve new heights,” Dawes said.
The creation of the School of Global Health at Meharry fills an important gap in the global healthcare continuum as it will be taking a new and more holistic approach to global health, the release stated. Presently, global public health education tends to focus on population-wide interventions. The School of Global Health will take a multidisciplinary and multisectoral approach to health and economic improvement, it said.
“The establishment of our new School of Global Health is a significant addition to our institution’s academic landscape and one that will continue to honor Meharry’s rich legacy,” said Dr. James Hildreth, president and CEO of Meharry.
“In the years following the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen how health disparities have negatively impacted communities and economies across the globe. Through unique degree opportunities coupled with leadership from a robust founding advisory board, the School of Global Health will become the solution that is needed to solve the most complex and pressing health equity issues our society is facing,” said Hildreth.
Meharry has a rich history of addressing complex health challenges around the world for nearly 150 years, according to the release. As one of only four HBCU academic health science centers in America, it has been at the forefront of public health decisions both locally and internationally. In October, Meharry announced the Together for Change program that addresses inequities in STEM careers and will begin the process of building the largest African ancestry genomics research database, it said.
Additionally, with President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, funding, Meharry is working in several African countries to reduce mother-to-baby HIV transmission rates and promote cross-cultural understanding via exchange programs with universities in low- and middle-income nations, the release stated.
“As a former president of Meharry Medical College, it brings me great joy to witness the launch of the School of Global Health, which will be a global health equity pioneer,” said Dr. David Satcher, the 16th U.S. Surgeon General and founding advisory board member. “Under Daniel Dawes’ leadership, I know this school will become a beacon of hope for those who aspire to become health equity leaders and scholars and want to effectuate meaningful change in advancing health equity.”
The Institute for Global Health Equity and its founding advisory board have established four initial areas of focus for Meharry’s School of Global Health:
- Political determinants of health
- Mental health
- Population health
- Health communications
According to Dawes, these priorities encompass critical root causes of some of the most pressing global inequities facing vulnerable populations around the world.
“Having dedicated my professional life to eliminating barriers and obstacles to health access, and serving as a voice to the voiceless communities in rural America, it is a privilege to collaborate with the accomplished individuals on this board and to play a role in contributing to our shared objectives in supporting and guiding the establishment of the School of Global Health,” said Dr. Regina Benjamin, 18th U.S. Surgeon General and founding advisory board member.
“I am committed to approaching this role with diligence and dedication, and I anticipate that our collective efforts will yield significant positive outcomes for our future learners and global community,” said Benjamin.
The School of Global Health’s founding advisory board is composed of 30 inaugural members who bring a breadth of knowledge and deep understanding of the complex issues surrounding health equity, healthcare, mental health, health communications and public health, the press release stated. They will guide the formation of the school and ensure all programs, academics and research efforts are at the forefront of the global health equity movement, it said.
For more information about the Meharry Institute of Global Health Equity and its founding advisory board, visit www.MeharryGlobal.org.