Indiana University’s global health track for medical residents is distinctive because it is interdisciplinary bringing together residents from various specialties such as medicine, pediatrics, and surgery on a quarterly basis to learn about and discuss various aspects of global health that cut across all specialties.
IU School of Medicine assistant professor of pediatrics Megan McHenry, MD, and colleagues from IU, University of Virginia and Mount Sinai recently had their paper “Leveraging Economies of Scale via Collaborative Interdisciplinary Global Health Tracks (CIGHTs): Lessons from Three Programs” published by Academic Medicine, the journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges.
The paper examines the unique characteristics of three universities’ interdepartmental global health residency programs and offers insights on how similar programs might be structured. Interest in global health among medical trainees continues to increase, but resources and opportunities for authentic experiences can be limited.
“We are proud of the opportunities available to IU School of Medicine global health residents to learn and share with colleagues from other disciplines and to apply what they learn through our longstanding AMPATH partnership in Kenya. By sharing this model, as well as those from our colleagues at UVA and Mt. Sinai, we hope to encourage more global health opportunities for medical trainees at other programs,” said McHenry.
The abstract states, “Through collaboration and economies of scale, CIGHTs are able to address some of the primary challenges inherent to traditional global health tracks: lack of institutional faculty support and resources, the need to develop a global health curriculum, a paucity of safe and mentored international rotations, and inconsistent resident interest. Additionally, most published global health learning objectives and competencies (e.g., ethics of global health work, pre-departure training) are not discipline-specific and can therefore be addressed across departments—which, in turn, adds to the feasibility of CIGHTs.”
McHenry said that IU was one of the first programs to have a collaborative interdisciplinary global health residency track. “The leadership in our own program, Drs. Deb Litzelman and Jenny Baenziger, has done an impressive job of creating meaningful curriculum that is responsive to the trainees’ needs while ensuring preparedness for future global health work. For those interested in creating CIGHTs, I hope they follow a similarly thoughtful path,” said McHenry. Both Litzelman and Baenziger co-authored the paper.
CIGHTS give trainees the opportunity to learn from their peers’ experiences and knowledge in addition to being an efficient way to deliver core global health curriculum. “While some of the education our trainees receive is specialty-specific, the vast majority of education is relevant across medical disciplines. Cultural humility, understanding health care systems, international ethics, and research methods are just a few topics our trainees learn about that will benefit them and their patients, no matter where they ultimately practice,” said McHenry.
Litzelman added that one of the unique aspects of IU program is the timing of recruits. “The IU Center for Global Health purposely decided to recruit residents into the global health track midway through their internship year,” she said. “This allows the respective residency program directors and departmental faculty time to get to know and evaluate their interns and to help identify those who were both highly motivated and good fit for the program.” The IU program currently has 61 residents and fellows.
The level of support for the program from throughout all of the participating departments is exceptional according to Baenziger. “We have a high level of faculty support. It’s often hard for residents to get away, but our faculty members really encourage our residents to come to the quarterly education sessions and fully participate in the track,” she said. “The IU Center for Global Health gives our residency track a home and a physical space where we can all meet on common ground,” she added.
The process of writing the paper was educational for McHenry and she appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with UVA and Mt. Sinai colleagues and learn more about what other programs were doing in the area of global health. The three programs are among the largest and most well-established in the country and IU and Mt. Sinai are both members of the AMPATH Consortium, so the collaboration came together naturally.
McHenry’s research focuses on global child health with a particular interest in neurodevelopment in children born to HIV-infected mothers and implementation science. She conducts research in collaboration with the AMPATH Research Network in Kenya and educates residents and students on topics related to global child health education, research methodologies, and research ethics.