Letter from the dean
We share this planet with billions of people, a rich panoply of cultures, languages, beliefs and interests. Yet amid this diversity, we also share a universal yearning: to enjoy healthy lives.
This issue of Stanford Medicine magazine explores people, places and programs that illuminate how tightly we are bound to each other, even when separated by thousands of miles, and how dedicated physicians and researchers can make a real difference for individuals, communities, nations and, eventually, all of us.
Any focus on global health must address equality and the complex interplay of the social determinants of health, including education, poverty and pollution.
One powerful example is the story behind Stanford’s efforts to increase the number of health leaders who are women by hosting the first annual Women Leaders in Global Health Conference. The lack of gender equity at the highest levels of health care leadership is as much a problem here as it is internationally. By working together, women from different continents are beginning to connect and receive the training and mentorship they need to effect change on an institutional level.
Similarly, in an interview, Jim Yong Kim, the first physician to lead the World Bank, argues forcefully that investing in health and education is one of the most powerful ways to reduce poverty, citing evidence that better outcomes in both correlate more strongly with economic growth than we previously thought. That’s one reason I’m so passionate about health care and higher education. They’re the means to a better life — for everyone.
Not only does health affect poverty, but poverty also affects health, and so do a host of other factors, from the environment to social support. A focus on these social determinants is a cornerstone of Stanford Medicine’s precision health vision. In the fascinating profile of epidemiologist Stephen Luby, we see the ways in which he is coming to understand, and seeking to reduce, the health effects of the carbon-monoxide-spewing brick kilns in Bangladesh. In an article about mosquito trackers, we learn the stunning fact that there’s a statistically significant overlap between dengue infections and homicide risk.
Through rotations in social medicine and work with homeless populations, global health residents at Stanford explore how socioeconomic, environmental and behavioral factors work together to contribute to health and disease. During their training, residents discover what is common among us. As Andrew Chang put it poignantly, “Practicing medicine overseas makes you realize that, in many ways, people are all the same. Fear, regret, anger, sadness — these things are universal. When someone starts crying, you hold their hand.”
Worldwide, we are all fighting against the many forces that make us sick — sexism, pollution, crime — and regardless of where we call home, all of us are, in a very real way, neighbors. Read on to learn more about how Stanford Medicine is improving health globally — and locally.
Lloyd Minor, MD
Carl and Elizabeth Naumann Dean of the School of Medicine
Professor of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery