Researcher of the Month – Dr. Robert Anderson

The purpose of this feature is to showcase Dalhousie faculty whose health research is making an impact on a global scale. Each month we will write about someone who has done significant global health work in collaboration with the Global Health Office. The work these men and women do is invaluable and inspiring. These researchers deserve to be highlighted and with this feature we are trying to do just that.

Dr. Robert Anderson

Dr. Robert Anderson

Dr. Robert Anderson has made a significant impact on global health research working in collaboration with the Global Health Office and various partnerships overseas. He is a Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie University and he is a member of the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology. Dr. Anderson is passionate about global health issues, building research capacity, engaging with students and establishing international partnerships.

Some of Dr. Anderson’s specific interests involve researching to fight infectious diseases and developing better vaccine strategies. He is known for his studies on the Dengue virus and on respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). He has done extensive work to develop a vaccine for RSV, a virus that is responsible for infections such as bronchiolitis and the common cold. Through his research and collaborations, he has helped build a global health community at Dalhousie and in South East Asia. This work has developed a network between three universities: Dalhousie, Thammasat University in Thailand and Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan.

“Collaboration, working together, cooperation on global health research can only have the benefit of helping us all,” said Dr. Anderson in an interview with GHO last year. “If we’re going to be able to be masters of infectious disease control, we’re going to have to do that on a global basis.”

Dr. Anderson is also committed to nourishing the experiences of Dalhousie and international students. He has hosted a number of Thai students for research training in his laboratory in Halifax, and this has given the students invaluable experience and research tools. Dr. Anderson has also worked with the Global Health Office to develop a summer program in Thailand for Dalhousie students. The program is hosted by the Faculty of Medicine at Khon Kaen University in Thailand and is provided in both clinical and non-clinical departments.

“Certainly educating our future generation of doctors and scientists in the global aspects of disease, and of course in other aspects of medicine and health care, is going to be key to being successful,” said Dr. Anderson.

In 2010, Dr. Anderson received the Dr. John Savage Memorial Award for Faculty Excellence in Global Health. This award recognizes an outstanding humanitarian contribution to international health by a Dalhousie Medical School faculty member. Along with the aforementioned global health work and various other achievements, this award is representative of Dr. Anderson’s passion and considerable impact on global health research.

2011 Global Health Research Forum

"Stengthening Mentorship with Faculty and Students"

Doctors, faculty, students and staff from Dalhousie University and around Atlantic Canada gathered on Tuesday, May 3 to take part in the fifth annual Global Health Research Forum, a symposium that addresses issues and progress in local, global and international health.

The event consisted of speeches and workshops that dealt with topics ranging from global health mentorship to building research capacity within health systems. The Forum was organized by Dalhousie’s Global Health Office, with collaboration from the Canadian Society for International Health, the Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research, the University of Prince Edward Island, Memorial University and Dalhousie University.

Shawna O’Hearn, Director of the Global Health Office, believes the event was a huge success. She says the Forum is a venue where researchers and others interested in global health can meet and converse with each other.

“One goal is for people to get to know each other. A lot of times when we are in the midst of our research and our work we tend to not know the other players. We thought: ‘let’s bring everyone together to hear what’s happening in global health research,’” says O’Hearn. “Another goal is to support new researchers in global health. This is an opportunity for people to think about how they can tag their research into the global health arena.”

The day was bookended by two special guest speakers. First Dr. Peter A. Singer, CEO of Grand Challenges Canada, talked about his organization’s steps towards improving health and well-being in developing countries by integrating scientific, technological, business and social innovation. Dr. David Wilkinson, Dean of Medicine and Head of School at the University of Queensland School of Medicine, spoke during the closing ceremonies about the advancements his university is making in the realm of global health.

Dr. Wilkinson stressed the importance of global health research and the commitment needed to become a global health organization.

“I think it’s fair to say that if you’re going to be a global school, you’re going to need a global faculty, you need an international faculty, and you certainly need a curriculum that teaches global health,” says Dr. Wilkinson. “I would argue that you need a diverse student body and a lot of student exchange. I think some key international partnerships are really important, and, indeed, an international presence.”

"Strengthening Mentorship with Faculty and Students"

Aside from the speeches and workshops, participants were able to peruse the Graduate Student Research Day poster and platform presentations, which are a collection of students’ research displayed in the halls of Tupper Link on Dalhousie’s campus.

The event was capped off with the 2011 Global Health Awards ceremony. Alyson Holland, a Med IV student who has led many global health activities, received the Dr. Ronald Stewart Award for Student Leadership in Global Health. Dr. Sabina Nagpal, a resident in psychiatry who focuses on mental health capacity in Guyana, received the Dr. TJ Jock Murray Resident Award. Dr. Stan Kutcher, a Dalhousie professor of psychiatry and a leader in numerous organizations and global health initiatives, received the Dr. John Savage Memorial Award for Faculty Excellence.

Not only was the Forum a productive event for faculty and researchers, it was also a valuable learning experience for students. Margaret Schwartz, a health promotions student, says she learned a lot from the experience.

“I would definitely recommend others to attend the Forum,” says Schwartz. “It was a fantastic eye-opener and it really enhanced my knowledge of global health and what is being done to improve it.”

So what should we expect for next year? O’Hearn says she’d like the Forum to be even more inclusive.

“It would be nice to have some of our international partners involved in the Forum. Because it shouldn’t just be about the capacity in the Atlantic region, it should also be about what’s happening with our partners around the world,” says O’Hearn. “I really like having everyone come together.”

The Workshops

"Local Global Health Education: Evidence and Practice Together"

Morning:

“Interprofessional Education, Mentorship and Research with Partners in Guyana”

In this workshop, participants discussed the student rehabilitation program, the post-RN psychiatric mental health nursing program and Guyana’s family, surgical and mental health systems.

“Strengthening Mentorship with Faculty and Students”

In this workshop, participants discussed key concepts of mentorship, Dalhousie’s experience with global health research mentorship and CCGHR’s role in collaboration.

“Local Global Health Education: Evidence and Practice Together”

In this workshop, participants discussed a student-led course that addressed the health of socially marginalized communities in Halifax, the services available to address the needs of these communities and how to integrate principles of health equity and social accountability into students’ careers.

Afternoon:

“Establishing a Global Health Program”

In this workshop, participants discussed the opportunities and best practices within the Canadian university environment specific to global health, the tools and resources required to sustain a global health program and the collaborative partnerships within Canadian universities that stimulate and nurture global health.

“Building Research Capacity within Health Systems (Using Examples from Brazil, Jamaica and Zambia)”

In this workshop, participants discussed current health worker retention and recruitment strategies in two districts in Zambia, as well as the alignment of existing health worker competencies with the health needs of the people in these districts.

“Hidden Elements with Global Health Research”

This workshop consisted of four presentations of ‘hidden elements’ in global health research:

Dr. Ellen Hickey – “Why should we care about speech-language pathology services in developing countries?”

Emily Zinck – “Keeping peace abound: How do we tell these children that there is another path of Kenya?”

Vanessa Donnelly – “Diabetes: The new health crisis in Tanzania?”

Reddi Sekhara – “Mid-term evaluation of NRHM policy in tribal community in India: Cultural sensitivity in health services”

The Speeches

Opening Speaker: Dr. Peter A. Singer

Dr. Singer is, among other things, the Chief Executive Officer of Grand Challenges Canada. He spoke about his organization’s steps towards improving health and well-being in developing countries by integrating scientific, technological, business and social innovation.

Dr. Peter A. Singer

Dr. Peter A. Singer

Closing Speaker: Dr. David Wilkinson

Dr. Wilkinson is the Dean of Medicine and Head of School at the University of Queensland School Of Medicine in Brisbane, Australia. He spoke about the advancements his university is making in the realm of global health.

Dr. Dean Wilkinson

Dr. David Wilkinson

The Awards

The Global Health Awards were also handed out at this year’s Global Health Research Forum. The recipients are:

Alyson Holland – The Dr. Ronald Stewart Award for Student Leadership in Global Health

Dr. Sabina Nagpal – The Dr. TJ Jock Murray Resident Award

Dr. Stan Kutcher – The Dr. John Savage Memorial Award for Faculty

Thanks to all our partners, presenters, speakers, facilitators, volunteers, staff and participants. See you next year!