Two U.S. Endocrine Society members will embark this month on a trip halfway across the globe to India. Gary Hammer, M.D., Ph.D., and his postdoctoral fellow, Tobias Else, M.D., from the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, will launch The Endocrine Society’s Ambassador Exchange Program, in which mentors and their trainees observe how national, ethnic, economic, and cultural factors shape endocrine care.
In this pilot program funded by The Endocrine Society, an endocrinologist and a trainee from an established U.S. center will visit an international center where resources are limited and indigent populations are served. In turn, an endocrinologist and trainee from the host international center will then visit the U.S. center to complete the exchange. All four participants will attend and present their experiences at ENDO 2013, The Endocrine Society’s 95th Annual Meeting & Expo.
The idea is the brain child of Society President William Young, Jr., M.D. “Throughout my professional career, I have been fortunate to participate in such exchanges, which I consider life-changing experiences,” he said.
Medical institutions individually sponsor their own medical student and scientific exchange programs among successful institutions in developed nations. What makes the Society’s program different is that it focuses on practicing clinicians and trainees at the bedside and links resource-rich developed nations with resource-poor developing nations.
President Young and a Working group, which included representatives from the Society’s Council, trainee constituency, and Society staff, chose the participants and institutions for this pilot program. By traveling to hospitals and clinics in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC, as defined by the World Bank), U.S.-based clinicians gain additional insight into the natural progression of endocrine disorders not frequently observed in the U.S. In turn, LMIC-based clinicians will learn about new technologies and best practices in U.S. institutions.
King Edward Memorial Hospital (KEM) in Mumbai, India, will be the first host site. Serving the indigent population of Mumbai, KEM services close to 2 million patients a year. Although the hospital staffs a sizable number of doctors (390 staffM.D.s and 550 residents in training), it has no nursing staff. Patients are cared for by the family, who at times sleep there for months, along with their pets and farm animals.
“Like many developing countries, the healthcare disparities are profound in terms of limited resources and people. We will see things we don’t see any more, such as patients in end-stage diseases. It will be a real eye-opening experience,” said Hammer.
Nalini S. Shah, M.D., chair of Endocrinology, and her fellow Shruthi Kare, M.D., will then visit the University of Michigan two weeks before ENDO 2013. The University of Michigan’s Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of the world’s only comprehensive adrenal cancer clinics. This premier research and academic institution was initially funded by a foundational gift by the UM football coach, Bo Schembechler, in memory of his wife, Millie, who died from adrenal cancer. The National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health also provides funding and resources to the center.
While at KEM, Hammer and Else will deliver medical and endocrine lectures, attend patient-based education rounds in hospitals, and provide case-based conferences. They will also demonstrate use of patient education and materials by going over fact sheets from the Hormone Health Network that have been translated to Hindi.
For Else, this opportunity does more than satisfy his wanderlust. Before joining Hammer’s lab, Else was a medical student in Germany and spent some time observing clinics in England and Austria. “I’m excited to go,” he said. “I am eager to see it from my professional vision and learn something that you wouldn’t normally do if you were traveling.”
Not only are the program’s participants going to personally and professionally benefit, but so will The Endocrine Society. The Society’s third Strategic Plan (SP3) emphasizes its commitment to “the goal of improved human health worldwide.” The program would position the organization as a global health leader among professional societies and extend its impact and infl uence into the world arena.
Although the Ambassador program is a pilot study, the goal would be to create a sustaining model funded by external funding. The Endocrine Society will seek external funding from two sources: pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies (and their respective foundations) with an interest in developing nations (e.g., Eli Lilly and Company and its Lilly Foundation, Medtronic and its Medtronic Foundation), and independent foundations with global health funding programs (e.g., Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation).
In the Spring, Susan Madel, M.D., M.P.H., and Ilona Lorcinz from the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) in Philadelphia will visit Chris Hani Baragwanath (Bara) Hospital in Soweto, South Africa, an institution in which more than 50 percent of the patients admitted have HIV. Roy Shires, FCP(SA), Ph.D., and Kershlin Naidoo, M.D., from Bara will then repay the visit and go to UPenn.
—Jaqueline Ruttimann, Ph.D., Associate Editor of Endocrine News