University of Texas Medical Branch
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Course in travel and tropical medicine certified

GALVESTON, Texas — The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston will begin offering courses that will provide training to identify, treat and prevent an increasing number of diseases showing up in America among travelers and immigrants.

The course approved through the auspices of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene would provide physicians with a certificate of knowledge in tropical and travel medicine and is a part of a new global health track being offered at UTMB.

ASTMH is the main group in the United States that is focused on the prevention and control of tropical diseases.

The course offered at UTMB will be one of 10 taught in other medical schools in the United States.

Dr. A. Clinton White Jr., chief of the Infectious Disease Division at UTMB and an expert in tropical medicine, said people who complete the course would be better equipped to address global health issues that are increasingly showing up in American medical centers.

In explaining the need and importance of the course study, White said that “the diseases that are seen in travelers and immigrants are different than in people who have just stayed in the states.

“The world is getting smaller and there are every year about 80 million people traveling from developed countries of North America and Western Europe to less developed countries,” White said. “At the same time, about an eighth of today’s U.S. population are people born in other countries and another eighth are their kids. So about a quarter of the U.S. population has close links to other countries, primarily areas that we think of as less-developed countries.”

Dr. Robert Johnson, director of the Preventive Medicine Residency Program and co-director of the global health track, called the development a student-interest driven broadening of the university’s scope. The course, he said, will enable students to “increase awareness of global disease, assist them in caring for people from all over the world and be relevant wherever they go to practice. This is a welcome and timely addition to our academic offerings.”

Johnson and Dr. Janice K. Smith, director of the Center for Training in International Health, praised students who have embraced a global perspective on health and service.

“Our students tend to have a little different focus on the delivery of medical care; they really have a service orientation and this will provide an opportunity to fulfill that desire to serve,” Johnson said.

Smith, also a co-director, added: “There are definitely certain kinds of students here who have a pre-selected bias and are looking to make a difference in the world.”

The ASTMH approved course of study dovetails with several existing programs at the Center for Training in International Health Center, Smith said, including one where students travel to a rural part of Nicaragua and work in a clinic providing primary health care to the poor.

Treating poor people in a remote area can lead to a fundamental shift in the thinking of some students, Smith said. “It can have a pretty significant impact on their attitudes,” she said, adding that many students “come back changed.”

The ASTMH course of study will be open to all students. “We’re very excited to be offering it. We hope that this will be a very big draw,” Smith said.

The ASTMH organization was formed in 1951 with the merging of the American Society of Tropical Medicine, founded in 1903, and the National Malaria Society, founded in 1940.

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