Columbia University Medical Center

New M.D. Program Fills Growing Need For Experts In International Health

New York, June 1997 — Medical schools in the United States and abroad do an excellent job of producing specialists to treat diseases of individuals and specific body systems. They fall short, however, when it comes to teaching doctors about the health needs of populations.

Now, to fulfill those unmet needs, Columbia University Health Sciences Division in New York and the Joyce and Irving Goldman Medical School at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva, Israel, have created a new M.D. program in International Health. Directors Dr. Richard J. Deckelbaum, Director of Columbia University’s Institute of Human Nutrition, and Dr. Carmi Margolis, Vice Dean for Medical Education at Ben Gurion University Faculty of Medicine, say the program will graduate doctors with the necessary skills to promote disease prevention among communities and will address the health needs of populations. In addition to their training in medicine, students will learn how such factors as economics, agriculture, resource management, and culture impact the health of entire populations throughout the world. As a former flying doctor in Zambia with many years of clinical and research experience abroad, Dr. Deckelbaum understands the need for such a program. “While in Zambia, I found myself not only treating people, but teaching population groups about nutrition and health promotion. To achieve better nutrition, we had to actually teach agricultural techniques for that region,” he says. “These are just some of the many challenges doctors will face practicing internationally.”

He says it is important for a doctor in a new setting to observe the customs and behaviors of a population before attempting to change the established culture. “It is the doctor who will need to change his or her cultural approach, rather than trying to impose typical Western expectations.” The four-year program offers an American-style curriculum taught in English, with courses in Hebrew and Arabic before clinical clerkships. It is located at Ben Gurion University and includes courses in cross-cultural, community, and preventive medicine, as well as electives in international public health, health care policy, and health economics. Students receive the M.D. degree from Ben Gurion University, which is known as a leader in community medicine and for its innovative outreach programs. Faculty from Columbia University Health Sciences Division and BGU Medical School jointly oversee program planning, student selection, and curriculum development. They will also take part in faculty exchanges and joint research. Admission to the program is competitive and open to top students from the United States and elsewhere who have completed undergraduate degrees with the necessary science prerequisites. Applications are now being accepted for the charter class of 30 students who will begin the program in September 1998. For information or application materials, call the admissions office in New York at (212) 305-9587, fax (212) 305-3079, or e-mail BGCU-MD@columbia.edu. After June 30, a brochure and application materials will be available through the program’s home page, at http://cpmcnet.columbia.edu/dept/bgcu-md/.