Western Connecticut Health Network Establishes Global Health Education Program
Uganda's Makerere College of Health Sciences may be thousands of miles from Western
Connecticut Health Network (WCHN), yet the powerful lessons medical students experience
while abroad raise the quality of care they bring to their practice of medicine
"We must share the globe. We are all genetically related," said Majid Sadigh, MD,
the humanitarian and educator who joined WCHN as director of its new Global Health
Education Program in conjunction with the University of Vermont College of Medicine.
The global initiative expands WCHN's medical education program internationally into
established sites in Russia and Uganda, with plans to soon add new locations, including
Cho Ray Hospital in Vietnam and a medical clinic in the Dominican Republic.
"Medical students who work abroad come back with a level of skill and compassion
that enables Western Connecticut Health Network to advance the quality of care we
deliver to our community, both regionally and globally," said Dr. Sadigh, an infectious
disease specialist and internist who has spent the last two decades establishing
global health programs in resource-starved countries. We learn as much from our
colleagues overseas as they learn from us."
Ramin Ahmadi, MD, chairman of Medical Education and Research at WCHN, said the global
health program strengthens the network's standing as a leading teaching and research
institution and regional medical center. "Our commitment to medical education and
research positively impacts patients because we're able to attract the best and
brightest physicians and health care professionals," he said. WCHN includes Danbury
Hospital, New Milford Hospital and the Biomedical Research Institute in downtown
Global Health as a Growing Specialty
Dr. Sadigh comes to WCHN with a wealth of experience in global health, having worked
in regions plagued by HIV/AIDS, ebola, malaria and cholera. Most recently, Dr. Sadigh
taught at the Yale Medical School, where he established exchange programs with Makerere
College of Health Sciences in Uganda and Kazan State Medical University in Russia.
The soft-spoken physician said he was drawn to WCHN by the opportunity to build
a global health education program with Dr. Ahmadi, a graduate of the Yale Primary
Care Program and Yale School of Public Health who Dr. Sadigh considers a "creative
educational architect." He also welcomed the chance to work under the "visionary
leadership" of John Murphy, MD, president and chief executive officer of WCHN. "Both
Drs. Murphy and Ahmadi understand the importance of having a strong medical education
and research program," he said.
Dr. Sadigh hasn't wasted a minute since assuming his new post. Last week, a month
after visiting a clinic in Dominican Republic, Dr. Sadigh was in Vietnam where he
plans to establish exchange programs. Last month, Danbury Hospital hosted seven
physicians from Tatarestan Ministry of Health in Russia.
On Dec. 6, Dr. Sadigh will lead WCHN's second Global Health Night at Danbury Hospital
with physicians speaking about their experiences in Russia, Uganda and Kenya and
the importance of global citizenship at Western Connecticut Health Network and the
University of Vermont. The same presentation will take place at the University of
Vermont in Burlington.
Currently, Dr. Sadigh is hosting three more physicians from the Tatarestan Ministry
of Health and an infectious disease faculty member from Kazan State Medical University.
Next February, the Tatarestan Minister of Health and two associates will visit WCHN
to expand the current partnership.
Medical students at the University of Vermont College of Medicine already spend
six months training at Danbury Hospital. Under the new global health education program,
fourth-year medical students will have the opportunity to practice abroad for six
weeks at one of the overseas locations. First-year medical students can conduct
research in Uganda and Russia.
According to Dr. Sadigh, a growing number of faculty, residents and medical students
are looking for opportunities to study abroad as more Americans seek physicians
who are familiar with diseases that impact the globe. "There are no boundaries when
it comes to germs," he said. "Look at how quickly SARS and other diseases can spread
from one country to another."
Training the Next Generation of Physicians
Medical students who practice overseas can expect a "transformational experience"
that reminds them of "the importance of the human touch" when practicing medicine,
said Dr. Sadigh.
"Students who witness human suffering while studying abroad come back home as more
caring individuals who see the vulnerability of patients regardless of their nationality,"
Studies show medical students who study abroad are more likely to become primary
care physicians and care for the poor and underserved. WCHN has one of the nation's
few residency programs for primary care physicians. "The United States faces a shortage
of primary care physicians at a time when healthcare reform is placing a greater
emphasis on primary care, prevention and the management of chronic disease," he
Practicing abroad also allows medical students to hone their diagnostic skills by
working "away from their comfort zone" in an environment where technology, procedures,
supplies and healthcare professionals are scarce, said Dr. Sadigh.
"Most of my most powerful learning experiences occurred in countries like Iran,
Pakistan, Uganda, Rwanda, Botswana, Kenya, Zimbabwe, East Timor and Russia," he
said. "These are all powerful lessons that strengthen our ability to care for patients
right here at home."
About Western Connecticut Health Network
Western Connecticut Health Network is the region's premiere, patient-centered health
care organization serving residents of Western Connecticut and adjacent New York.
The organization is anchored by two nationally recognized hospitals, Danbury Hospital
and New Milford Hospital, as well as their affiliated organizations. In addition
to the two hospitals, the continuum of care offered includes the following affiliates:
Western Connecticut Health Network has centers of excellence in women's health,
cardiovascular and cancer services; minimally invasive and joint and spine surgery;
digestive disorders and radiology and diagnostic imaging. It also offers specialized
programs for neonatology with a Level IIIb neonatal intensive care unit and accredited
sleep disorder centers. Both hospitals also maintain active clinical research programs,
offering clinical trials for patients with cancer and other health concerns.