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A Day of Service

September 29 was the University of Minnesota’s Day of Service. Here are three stories that highlight the global impact of service.

We are saddened by the recent loss of Dr. Michael (Mike) Murtaugh of the College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Murtaugh was an academic triple threat: a great researcher, a committed educator, and a visionary advocate for the concept that animals, humans, and the environment are interlinked in health, disease, and well-being. His research, grounded in community engagement and real-world need, focused on understanding the immunological and molecular mechanisms of disease in swine. An article mourning his loss in the National Hog Farmer described him as one of its “most profound scientists in PRRS” (porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome) and stated that “his work on such a devastating disease has become a model for advancing progress in the industry.” With the University since 1985, he was always drawn to the challenges and rewards of teaching the next generation. His focus was likewise on the future as one of the original architects of the Consortium on One Medicine One Science, a group that describes itself to being committed to the discovery and delivery of “a practical understanding of health that is international, interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral.” We are grateful for his service to the University, to his students, to the swine industry, and to the improvement of scientific community worldwide.

Another story of service comes from Kathleen Olakunle who sent an article about a former division chief in the Department of Surgery, Dr. R. Morton "Chip" Bolman III, who has formed a volunteer team that goes to Rwanda to save lives by performing needed heart valve surgeries. The work and the terrible need for it are outlined in two articles in The New York Times.

A Boy Named Chance in a Land Without Heart Surgeons

Where a Sore Throat Becomes a Death Sentence

Well worth reading, these two articles describe a program that is able to treat 16 patients a year (out of 100 requests) with heart valve replacement(s) needed because of untreated strep throat. According to the article, it is estimated that, worldwide, 33.4 million people had rheumatic heart disease in 2015, and at least 319,400 died from it. The numbers highlight two things. 1) The Team Heart program takes concrete action to give young people a second chance at life. 2) The problem of people dying from a highly treatable disease demonstrates the incredible complexity of health care. Cardiology alone will not solve this problem. Public health, pharmacy, nursing, and engineering solutions are also needed. Beyond that, approaches that encompass everything from improved diagnostic technologies, non-traditional ways of dispensing care (telemedicine), political efforts to prioritize equitable access to care, and educational measures are all potentially critical in solving this complex problem.

The third story comes from our own Center for Global Health & Social Responsibility. Two of its faculty members, Drs. Chas Salmen and Shailey Prasad, have teamed with Joel Oguta (currently here as a visiting scholar) and others to create Organic Health Response (OHR), an organization designed to provide community-specific support to Mfangano, a remote Kenyan island in Lake Victoria. Thirty percent of the island’s residents are infected by HIV. OHR focuses on micro-initiatives with community leaders to help improve health education, communication, economic independence, and farming. They were recently awarded a National Geographic Explorers Grant to trace the remarkable oral history of the Suba people (whose language is endangered) and document perceptions of environmental change and the impact of HIV/AIDS on this unique island landscape. Global health, as all health, must be approached within a complex social and environmental structure.

These examples show why Clinical Affairs is opening up to be University-wide. Modern problems have complex solutions—solutions that incorporate everything from engineering, the arts, child development, education, and artificial intelligence to big data, bioprinting, nutrition, communications, and animal disease modeling.

These examples show why Clinical Affairs is opening up to be University-wide. Modern problems have complex solutions—solutions that incorporate everything from engineering, the arts, child development, education, and artificial intelligence to big data, bioprinting, nutrition, communications, and animal disease modeling.

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