Partners in Puebla: Exploring Future Global Health Initiatives in Mexico

While on a weeklong partnership exploration visit to Mexico in June 2018, the Global Health Program at Dell Medical School found a wealth of opportunities for medical education and community development — both for the state of Puebla and the state of Texas.

Tim Mercer, M.D., director of the Global Health Program and assistant professor in the Department of Population Health at Dell Med, says he is tremendously excited to partner with institutions across the border on service delivery, education and research to improve population health for poor and vulnerable communities in both Austin and Puebla.

“We have much to learn from each other and much to work on together,” Mercer said.

The Global Health Program team at Dell Med includes Mercer in collaboration with Laurie Young, director of special projects at UT’s International Office, and Sarayu Adeni, coordinator of the office’s Global Health Program. As part of a larger multidisciplinary group from UT Austin hosted by the Fundación Comunitaria Puebla, the trio visited four universities in Puebla and Mexico City including Universidad de Las Américas Puebla, Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and Universidad Panamericana. Alongside current students and faculty, participants toured simulation classrooms and amphitheaters; pediatric, psychology, physiotherapy and nutrition clinics; body donation facilities; and other campus resources.

 

Exploring ruins in Mexico

 

The Global Health Program team also visited community economic development projects and walked through a mobile health clinic in the town of San Francisco Xochiteopan, a rural community among the most severely hit by the 2017 earthquake. Overall, the trip helped build an understanding of the Mexican health care system, student exchange programs and research interests.

“We are excited about all the unique opportunities this type of engagement can create,” Young said. “The International Office is committed to increasing our student mobility and academic engagement with our neighbors to the south. Establishing our global health program in Mexico will create another opportunity for cross-campus collaboration focused on research, service and academics.”

With shared patient populations, geographic proximity, and common economic and technological interests, both the city of Austin and Mexican communities stand to benefit from mutual collaboration in health and development. By adapting the model set by the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH), Dell Med aims to form an institutional partnership in Latin America that will combine high-quality care, training and research to improve overall health outcomes and equity across populations and borders. In 2017, Dell Med joined the AMPATH Consortium — a network of universities committed for nearly 30 years to improving population health in Kenya and North America. In addition to engaging in work in Kenya, Dell Med’s Global Health Program is looking to establish an AMPATH partnership with a medical school in Mexico.

 

Touring medical facilities in Puebla

 

As a first step to this style of bidirectional innovation, Dell Med is developing an interdisciplinary health assessment project proposal for this year’s President’s Award For Global Learning, a program of UT’s International Board of Advisors (IBA). Adriana Pacheco Roldán, Ph.D., is current chair of the IBA, affiliate research fellow at UT Austin and proud resident of Puebla. As such, she held the unique stance of being on both sides of the partnership table. Roldán supported the logistics of the Global Health Program team’s June visit and assists ongoing development work in Puebla as a way to create long-lasting and high impact for communities in Mexico and the United States.

“There would be no bridges if there were not people willing to cross them,” Pacheco Roldán said. “I just witnessed the miracle that talented, hardworking and good people can make when they together imagine a better world.”

 

By Sarayu Adeni