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International Health

From the Chair
Robert Black, MD, MPH 

Robert BlackOur roles in international health are built on collaboration and a long-term commitment to the countries in which we work. The efforts begun by our faculty in the Sarlahi district of Nepal more than 20 years ago have been extremely productive, resulting in findings on vitamin A, iron, zinc and other micronutrients, and more recently on care of newborns. This research has not only contributed to global policy and programs through more than 125 publications, but has led to enhanced maternal and child health programs in Nepal. With increased recognition that nutritional deficiencies and other insults to the fetus or the young infant may have adverse consequences in adulthood, the continuous follow-up of such cohorts is proving to be very valuable and needs to be sustained. Many students have gained experience in the projects in Nepal and a couple of generations of doctoral students have completed research there.

On May 14, the Department celebrated the work and life of Professor Emeritus Carl Taylor, the founding chair of our department, who passed away at age 93 in February of this year. Many colleagues, former students, friends and family gathered to pay tribute to his exceptional contributions to international public health. The video of this event will soon be available online.

Among Carl’s many accomplishments, the long history of his efforts in Nepal illustrate his passion to help the most underserved, constantly blending a rich family life with his professional activities. In 1949 he served as the physician for the first ornithological expedition to Central Nepal, then considered the most isolated kingdom in the world. Learning a Western doctor was nearby, the Nepali people along the route sought him out for treatment, including multiple surgeries where the operating table was the top of a stone wall. Always the scholar, Carl kept detailed notes and published the first systematic health survey of Nepal. Returning for several consultations in the 1960s, he brought his family along for months at a time, leading to return visits by all of his children—Daniel with family planning and environmental conservation, Betsy studying anthropology with the Sherpa, and Henry observing Temple Monkeys for National Geographic. Carl, Daniel, and Henry repeated the 1949 expedition in 1976 as the first of several "peripatetic seminars" sponsored by the Department to teach front-line international health. Fifty years after the initial trek, Carl had his knee replaced and again hiked the same route, with his sons and grandchildren following (literally) in his footsteps. Before his prostate cancer was diagnosed, he had surgery on his other knee anticipating a 60th anniversary trek. Needless to say, Carl lived a full and exceptional life. Former Dean Al Sommer called him a "gentle giant" who inspired and challenged students and faculty to always do their best to help the most neglected of the world’s population.

I would close with congratulations to the graduates of the Department and to the many students who received awards as illustrated in part in this issue of The Globe. I am sure that you are prepared for the opportunities and challenges in international health and wish you well in your careers.