Mexico's Jaime Sepúlveda, an established international leader in public health, joined his colleagues in the UCSF School of Nursing and Global Health Sciences (GHS) in tackling emerging issues in public health policy.
Since his arrival to UCSF in January, Sepúlveda - who holds the 2007 Presidential Chair - has already made a tremendous impact.
"He is really a gift from heaven," says Haile Debas, MD, executive director of GHS. "His contributions to our discussion in health policy and the future direction of Global Health Sciences have been extremely meaningful."
Sepúlveda's appointment as a visiting professor in the nursing school's Department of Community Health Systems comes at a historic time with respect to Mexico's nursing profession, says Kathy Dracup, RN, DNSc, dean of the UCSF School of Nursing. The country is currently transitioning its training of nurses from hospitals to universities.
"We are eager to learn how to be effective partners with Mexico as they make this transition," Dracup says. "Dr. Sepúlveda can also help us consider how the nursing shortage experienced by many countries will affect global health."
Sepúlveda believes UCSF is the ideal place to both teach and enrich his own academic research program. "UCSF is seen from the outside as a major player in global public health," says Sepúlveda, who has been appointed professor emeritus at Mexico's National Institute of Public Health (INSP). "At UCSF, you find the perfect combination of strong biomedical sciences with strong social sciences and public health background," says Sepúlveda.
Sepúlveda's career has included holding some of the top posts in public health in the Mexican government, including director of Mexico's National Institutes of Health (NIH), director general of the INSP (and dean of its school of public health), director general of epidemiology and vice minister of health.
He founded the National AIDS Council and is responsible for having developed and implemented numerous public health campaigns. These included a universal vaccination program that increased vaccination rates from 45 percent to 94 percent in two years and an aggressive AIDS prevention campaign that is credited with giving Mexico one of the lowest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the Americas.
An International Leader
Sepúlveda also has been a key international player, currently serving on Harvard University's Board of Overseers and as a member of the executive committee of his alma mater.
He is a foreign associate of the US National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine (IOM), chairing the IOM Committee on the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief Implementation Evaluation. Sepúlveda will present and discuss the findings and recommendations of that committee in a noon time talk on Monday, May 7 from noon to 1 p.m. in Health Sciences West, room 303, on the UCSF Parnassus campus. See more information about the report here.
Sepúlveda recently served as chair of the advisory committee to the editors of Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries, a collaboration involving 500 international health experts that resulted in the 1452-page book published last year by Oxford University Press.
After 22 years, Sepúlveda said he is getting the sabbatical of his dreams. He plans to "renew" himself, write a book and establish collaborations aimed at analyzing data collected last year during Mexico's most ambitious public health survey to date. Sepúlveda's book will be made up of eight to 10 case studies of successful public health policy initiatives, including those resulting from the country's fight against the cholera pandemic of the 1990s and its response to HIV/AIDS transmission among Mexico's sex workers.
He believes these are exciting - if not challenging - times to be grappling with global health issues. "I think that finally, the world is doing something about AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and some of the major diseases of the poor," Sepúlveda says. He advocates that countries of all sizes target the largest burden of disease for which there exists good instruments at low cost and apply these on a large scale. "We need more health for the money," he added.
While the widespread use of vaccines is an obvious example, Sepúlveda points out that there are many other evidence-based interventions that can make a huge difference. Cataract surgery, for example, is an effective way to reverse blindness and return people to productive lives. Likewise, keeping newborns warm - with low-tech blankets or higher-tech incubators - goes a long way to reducing infant mortality.
"I am convinced that we can learn from shared experiences, from individuals working in public health to governments creating policies," Sepúlveda said. "This is what global health is all about."
This story first appeared in the Spring 2007 edition of UCSF Newsbreak.
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