School of Medicine doctors to provide AIDS care education in Africa

By Staff

The HIV epidemic continues to grow, especially in Africa where it has orphaned millions of children and decimated entire communities. In this environment, funding to train African health care providers is critical.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is partnering with the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to invest $130 million over five years to transform African medical education and dramatically increase the number of practicing health care workers. The University of Colorado School of Medicine will receive $1.9 million in federal grant funding to support this work. Funding from the NIH grant will enable CU faculty to travel to Zimbabwe to train medical students about HIV.

The Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) will award grants directly to African institutions in a dozen countries; the African institutions will work in partnership with U.S. medical schools and universities. The initiative will form a network of approximately 30 regional partners, country health and education ministries, and more than 20 U.S. collaborators.

The University of Colorado School of Medicine will collaborate with the University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences. The Colorado-Zimbabwe collaboration, called the Novel Education Clinical Trainees and Researchers (NECTAR), will improve medical student HIV education in Zimbabwe.

Thomas Campbell, M.D., professor of medicine, is the principal investigator for CU. Eva Aagaard, director of the Academy of Medical Educators; Lucy Bradley-Springer, director of the Mountain Plains AIDS Education and Training Center; Suzanne Brandenburg, director of the Internal Medicine Residency Program; and Nancy Madinger, director of the Infectious Diseases Fellowship Program at the CU School of Medicine will work with Campbell to administer and implement the program. Bonnie Walters, executive director of the evaluation center in the School of Education and Human Development, and her colleagues will monitor the impact of NECTAR on medical education in Zimbabwe.

"The University of Colorado is widely recognized for the outstanding teachers and clinicians among our faculty," Campbell said. "It is very exciting that we will now have this opportunity to share our teaching skills with our Zimbabwean colleagues to help them improve medical education in Zimbabwe."

As NECTAR is implemented, interested UC faculty from diverse areas of medicine will have opportunities to participate in activities at the University of Zimbabwe, including lecturing, bedside teaching and clinical and research mentorship.

"We must dramatically transform African medical education to increase the number of qualified care providers available and develop the scientific expertise needed for research and innovation," said Ambassador Eric Goosby, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator at the State Department. "By engaging country health and education ministries, MEPI will strengthen national plans to improve medical instruction and bolster the overall health care delivery systems. As we transition PEPFAR-supported HIV efforts from an emergency response to a more sustainable effort, we need to develop the expertise necessary for evidence-based decision making on the local level. This expertise will empower countries to lead health programs and fulfill their responsibility for the health of their people."

Eleven programmatic awards, largely funded by PEPFAR, will expand and enhance medical education and research training in the field of HIV. Eight smaller, non-HIV awards, funded by the NIH Director's Common Fund, with additional support from several NIH institutes, will help develop expertise in topics such as maternal and child health, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, mental health, surgery and emergency medicine. Through NECTAR, UC faculty will support PEPFAR goals to train and retain 140,000 new health care workers and improve the capacity of partner countries to deliver primary health care.

"HRSA's decades of experience working in HIV/AIDS through the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program have highlighted the critical need for enhanced medical education and training to provide quality care to people affected by HIV/AIDS in rural and underserved communities. We are proud to collaborate with PEPFAR and NIH to advance medical education in Africa through this initiative, as well as continue supporting the ongoing care and treatment and health system strengthening activities," said Mary K. Wakefield, Ph.D., R.N., HRSA administrator.