Fall 2022 Global Health Welcome Letter
A letter from Suzanne Maman, Associated Dean for Global Health, and Naya Villarreal, Global Health Associate Director
Welcome to the 2022-2023 Academic Year at Gillings! We hope the summer gave you an opportunity to rest, relax, travel, read, spend time with family and friends, enjoy nature, and do other things that bring you joy. We are excited about our global plans for the year ahead.
While we still have restrictions on our global travel at UNC, we definitely saw an increase in global travel among our students, staff, and faculty this summer. Students were working on reducing maternal mortality in Ghana, understanding women’s risk of malaria and helminth infections during pregnancy in Benin, working within sustainable university partnerships in Malawi, addressing food insecurity in Ireland, conducting waste composition analysis in Mali, and global-local work with Durham County Public Health Department. Read about their exciting work through the student global health blogs. Faculty traveled globally again for conferences, to launch new research studies, support existing research studies and provide technical assistance to partners in all corners of the world. While vaccines and boosters have made it possible for us to travel again with more protection, the surge in new COVID-19 infections globally due to highly infectious variants has reminded us that we are not post-COVID. We are still operating under UNC systems prohibition of international travel, so every student, staff or faculty member who plans to conduct university-affiliated travel must continue to apply for an exception.
Our faculty continue to contribute in important ways to mitigating the impact of COVID-19 in North Carolina and around the globe. Ralph Baric’s lab has been studying coronaviruses for three decades. His research was fundamental to the creation of vaccines and treatment to fight COVID-19. His lab was recently awarded a $65million grant to establish an Antiviral Drug Discovery (AViDD) Center to develop oral antivirals that can combat pandemic-level viruses like COVID-19. Other faculty including Drs. Timothy Sheehan and Lisa Gralinsky have contributed in important ways to understanding the molecular mechanisms of viral pathogenesis and research to regulate SARS coronavirus disease mechanisms and immunity.
The summer brought us record high temperatures in many places, underscoring the reality of climate change. We are so fortunate to have faculty in Environmental Sciences and Engineering conducting research globally to address air quality, human exposure and health effects, sustainable water resources, and climate injustice. Dr. Jason West explores the effects of changes in emissions on global air quality (ozone and particulate matter), the international transport of air pollutants, the health effects of air pollution, the effects of climate change on air quality and the radiative forcing of climate change. Dr. Yuqiang Zhang, PhD, investigates the spatial patterns of climate change risks through 2050 among urban areas and also discusses adaptation strategies to mitigate inequity.
This year we welcome a new Dean to Gillings. We are excited to introduce Dr. Nancy Messonnier to our global health community at Gillings. She brings a long career that includes global infectious disease prevention and control from her work at CDC and the Skoll Foundation. We are also welcoming new and returning cohorts of bachelors, masters and doctoral students, many of whom have plans for a career in global health. We spent our summer in the Global Health unit planning seminars, workshops, and other ways to support the global research and practice of our Gillings community. This summer we also developed a new Introduction to Global Health course that will be one of the foundational courses for a new BSPH in Community and Global Public Health that will eventually be offered at Gillings.
If you are new to Gillings, welcome. Please join our global health list so that you can receive our weekly newsletter highlighting global seminars, workshops, and research activities in our community. If you are a returning student, faculty or staff, welcome back. Feel free to stop by the global health office to ask a question or just to say, “Hello!”. May the year ahead bring us together in positive ways to continue to impact public health around the globe!
Suzanne and Naya