Dell Medical School hosted the “Global to Local” conference Saturday to discuss applying health care solutions from around the world to Travis County.
“Dell Medical School … was founded for and with resounding support of the local community,” said Sharmila Paul, a first-year medical student who helped organize the conference. “We really want to make sure that we’re focusing our efforts on actually being able to help the community in some way.”
The conference brought together health care experts and faculty from Dell Medical School to address health challenges in local communities like Travis County, including disparities in health care among racial demographic groups and high rates of infectious diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis.
According to data collected by the Texas Department of State Health Services from 2012 to 2014, risk factors such as preterm births and low birth weight were found to be highest among African Americans in Travis County. In 2017, the department recorded 35 cases of tuberculosis in Travis County, one of the highest number of cases among all Texas counties.
“Ultimately, (global health) is rooted in human rights and social justice,” said Tim Mercer, director of the Global Health Program at Dell Medical School, which aims to improve health care equality. “It cares very deeply about equity. We lose sleep over the fact that people east of I-35 versus west of I-35 have differences in their lifespan and suffer disproportionately from disease that they otherwise shouldn’t. Why is it that rich, white people (generally) tend to live longer and suffer less from conditions like that … compared to poor people of color? That’s a problem that we as global health practitioners … want to address.”
Conference organizer Thomas Varkey said there is nothing preventing the United States from providing solutions. However, Varkey said it is up wealthy organizations to decide what is a worthy investment.
“We put a man on the moon,” said Varkey, a first-year medical student. “That is not a lucrative deal. One guy who happened to sit in the office of the president decided that it was an important thing. Why (aren’t these health issues) being brought to national or international attention? It’s a big problem, and there’s money to be made more than putting a man on a rock where there’s nothing there.”