An innovative international program between Jefferson and health professionals in Romania has been declared a success by all involved.
The program began in 1994 when Jefferson was selected from among other top medical centers in the United States for the award of a major grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to train and educate Romanian health professionals. The grant is administered by the American International Health Alliance (AIHA).
The program may evolve into "one of the largest international partnerships at Jefferson," says the program's director, Lance L. Simpson, PhD, Professor of Medicine and Chief, Division of Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences, Department of Medicine, Jefferson Medical College.
|Cluj, Romania A City of Contrasts. These photos taken by members of Jefferson's international partnership team in Romania suggest the contrasts visitors may find there. Cluj, like other major Romanian cities, offers picturesque views and many significant historic, cultural and aesthetic sites. However, industrial hygiene and safety standards do not adequately protect the environment and the lives of citizens. For example, Jefferson's team found toxic industrial silt in residential and recreational areas, including playgrounds. Smog and air pollution are daily constants for workers and residents alike. Two still images taken from videos show workers performing tasks without protection from safety gloves, masks or goggles.|
Interior video stills by Medical Media
Exterior photo by Anthony J. Frisby, PhD
"In addition, this is an international project where Jefferson faculty members have built bridges with representatives of another nation's government," Dr. Simpson adds.
Dr. Simpson is also the project's program manager for occupational and environmental health sciences, one of three broad areas making up the partnership with Romania.
The two other partnership areas, and their program managers, are medical informatics, Edward W. Tawyea, University Librarian and Director of Academic Information Services and Research (AISR), and Mary G. Schaal, RN, EdD, Associate Professor of Nursing, College of Health Professions, and Vice Chair and Director, Graduate Program in Nursing, College of Graduate Studies.
At the phase funded by USAID, the Division of Pulmonary Medicine and Critical Care, under the direction of James E. Fish, MD, Professor of Medicine, participated in the program, with Sandra B. Weibel, MD, as the pulmonary program manager.
This project is a direct outgrowth of the strategic plan for international programs approved in 1993 by the University's Global Advisory Board under the chairmanship of Jefferson Trustee Lennox K. Black. The Office of International Affairs explored with interested faculty from a number of departments opportunities for funding of worthwhile international projects. The Romanian partnership program was the first obtaining support from the USAID. The USAID funded partnership program was centered in Cluj-Napoca, the capital of Transylvania, where three healthcare institutions teamed together to work with the group from Jefferson.
As JeffNEWS went to press, Dr. Simpson and the two other program managers returned to Romania to help develop a proposal to seek major funding to continue and expand the program in that country. See sidebar.
Benefits to Date
Likening the work already done in Romania as akin to "an investment for the future," Dr. Simpson, Mr. Tawyea and Dr. Schaal point to these benefits already achieved from 1994 through 1997:
* Creating invaluable contacts and working relationships with health professionals and government officials in both Romania and the United States.
Several exchange visits have forged excellent relationships between Jefferson and three government ministries in Romania health, labor and education. The efforts have also fostered close working relationships between Jefferson and U.S. Embassy officials in Romania, especially Carl Sienbentritt, Consul, U.S. Embassy in Cluj, and with government officials from the City of Philadelphia, the State of Pennsylvania and the Federal government.
* Further establishing Jefferson's global presence.
In Cluj in 1997, Jefferson co-hosted one national and one international conference on science and occupational health, with Dr. Simpson presenting opening addresses at both.
Over the three years of the program, Jeffersonians have come in close working contact with Romanian physicians, nurses, research scientists, chemists, and personnel in industrial hygiene, a field still being developed in Romania. The professional mix is typical of occupational and environmental health, a diverse field involving many specialist areas.
While the program's focus is Romania, the accomplishments there create models for potentially expanding Jefferson's presence in other nations.
* Creating World Wide Web sites for global use.
Jeffersonians created two Web sites on environmental health and medical informatics for Romania. This was achieved by the on-site efforts of Mr. Tawyea and three AISR staff members, Elizabeth R. Warner, MLS, Education Services Librarian, Anthony J. Frisby, PhD, Head of Instructional Design, and Michael Hamlin, PhD, Head of Education Services. Created at Jefferson, the sites are universally available to world scientists at http://jeffline.tju.edu/CWIS/DEPT/OEM/JOEMP/
* Introducing an interdisciplinary approach.
Jeffersonians were able to show Romanians the benefits of an interdisciplinary approach to projects as opposed to a Romanian approach of working within each specialty.
* Lending the "human touch."
Last, but certainly not least in Dr. Simpson's opinion, the benefits of the exchange program extended to the personal, with the Romanian visitors being particularly affected by Americans' generosity and hospitality as displayed one year when a visit to Jefferson coincided with the holiday season.