Pictured (left to right) - Heidi Luft, PhD, RN; Kara McArthur, MA; Matthew Dacso, MD, MSc; Robert A. Rodriguez, PhD, MPH;
Angelina Sosa, MA; Julio Canario, MS; Eugenia Gonzalez, MD, MPH; Andres G. Lescano, PhD, MHS

Department of Global HealthIn the News

Equitable Collaborative Research in the Dominican Republic

On November 13th, 2024, the UTMB Department of Global Health attended the Symposium on Equitable Collaborative Research at the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. This symposium was an interprofessional collaborative where public health professionals from local and international institutes shared their experiences on scientific research integrity, improvements in ethical research, and the promotion of collaborative projects. Matthew Dacso, MD, MSc; Heidi Luft, PhD, RN; and Robert Rodriguez, PhD, MPH were in attendance from UTMB.

In addition, a variety of UTMB collaborators participated, particularly from the Institute for Collaboration in Health (Kara McArthur, MA), Etikos Foundation (Julio Canario, MS), Universidad Central del Este (Eugenia Gonzalez, MD, MPH; Aidé Cornielle, MS; and Shanti Turbi), Institute de Salud Mental y Telepsicología (Angelia Sosa, MA), Clinical de Familia La Romana (Mina Halpern, MPH), the Instituto de Medicine Tropical Y Salud Global, Universidad Iberoamerican (Robert Paulino-Ramirez, MD, DTM&H, MA, HIVS), and Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia (Andres G. (Willy) Lescano, PhD, MHS).

At the start of the symposium, keynote speaker Dr. Willy Lescano presented “Opportunities and Challenges in Mentoring for Research Capacity Building.” He discussed identifying elements that define an equitable international collaborative experience, defining the roles of mentor and mentee, and understanding how to become better mentors for prospective researchers. Dr. Lescano’s presentation prefaced the symposium with a discussion that reminded attendees of the importance of recognizing and honoring the individuality and culture of the research environment in host countries.

Pictured (left to right) - Andres G. Lescano, PhD, MHS, Julio Canario MS, Robert Paulino-Ramirez, MD, DTM&H, MA, HIVS, Mina Halpern, MPH

International collaborative partnerships in Global Health aim to share resources to support expanding public health knowledge, improve decision-making in health policy, and enhance local efforts in improving health outcomes. UTMB’s Department of Global Health has a long history of establishing international collaborative partnerships, particularly in the Dominican Republic, since 2012. Dr. Matthew Dacso and Professor Aidé  Cornielle elaborated on this through their presentation, “Equitable Collaboration in Infectious Disease Research in the Eastern Region of the Dominican Republic – History and Lessons Learned.” According to Dr. Dacso, the success of UTMB’s international collaboration is centered on core components identified by Adams et al. BMC Medical Education, 2016. The application of these core values have enabled the establishment of multiple UTMB partnerships with the Institute for Collaboration in Health/Instituto de Investigación Colaborativa – Eastern Region and the Dominican Republic UCE-UTMB Laboratory of Molecular Biology and Emerging Diseases – San Pedro de Macorís.

Dr. Matthew Dacso and Professor Aide Cornielle presenting on Equitable Collaborations in Infectious Disease Research

The impact of UTMB’s Global Health efforts in the Dominican Republic have grown through Dr. Heidi Luft, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing and a faculty member of The Center for Violence Prevention at UTMB. Dr. Luft is leading alocal program called the Fourth R, a program designed to reduce risky behaviors in adolescents and promote healthy relationships, which launched this year in four high schools in the capital city of Santo Domingo.

In collaboration with Julio Canario, President, Etikos Foundation, they presented their recent work on adapting and implementing a "best practice " for the reduction of risky behaviors among adolescents in the Dominican Republic. Dr. Luft defined the criteria for the Fourth R curriculum and the program’s objectives that aim to strengthen prosocial skills, improve harmonious co-existence in the classroom, reduce interpersonal violence, and delay the onset o sexual activity.

Dr. Heidi Luft presenting on The Fourth R curriculum in the Dominican Republic

In addition to UTMB’s representations, the symposium had a packed agenda with a variety of presentations that focused on research training opportunities for youth populations, health research priorities in the Dominican Republic, and equitable scientific collaborations. Many of the discussion points centered on the importance of capacity building, resource allocation, and ethical governance and regulation of health research. In addition, there were panel sessions that discussed collaboration, technology, and innovation in oncology research, which included a video presentation from Clifford Dacso, MD, MPH, MBA(Baylor College of Medicine).

A panel discussion on community-based research with vulnerable populations, moderated by Angelina Sosa, MA, ISAMT Director/UASD Professor, included the experts Robert Paulino, MD, Principal Investigator,Institute of Tropical Medicine & Global Health Iberoamerican University (UNIBE); Mina Halpern, MPH,Executive Director, Clínica de Familia La Romana; and Manuel Colome, MD, PhD, Director of the Health Research Institute (INSIS/FCS/UASD). Toward the end of the symposium, the Etikos Foundation recognized Matthew Dacso, MD, MSc; Heidi Luft, PhD, RN; Eddy Pérez Then, Dr. Med, MBA, PhD; Mina Halpern, MPH;Maria Zunilda Nuñez, MD, PhD; and Aidé Cornielle, MS for their contributions and excellence in equitable collaborative research.

Collaborative research with our local and international partners is the first principle and the foundation for all our efforts in the UTMB Department of Global Health. The Symposium on Equitable Collaborative Research provided an opportunity to strengthen collaborative research efforts inthe Dominican Republic. In the spirit of the mission of the UTMB School of Public and Population Health, the work of the Global Health team is dedicated to improving health equity for all.

Dr. Dacso and Dr. Heidi Luft, along with global health collaborators and local public health professionals receiving awards for excellence in equitable collaborative research.