The faculty of the Department of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology are committed to incorporating concepts of cultural competency into its academic courses and research. The department has many projects that assimilate microbiology, entomology, advanced biomedical technology, social sciences, and community research to investigate the dynamics of an infectious organism in a community. Dengue, for example, currently does not have effective chemotherapies for treatment or a vaccine for prevention. Therefore, modifying human behavior to reduce contact with mosquitos is an important component of prevention and control measures. Modifying human behavior requires an intimate knowledge of the cultural aspects of a community and subsequently would work in communities to solve the infectious disease (e.g., water storage, waste disposal, ability to understand disease transmission, cultural myths, and traditional prevention methods). Although changing long held habits and behaviors are difficult, the department is dedicated to finding preventive and control measures taking these cultural characteristics into account.
Members of the department are part of the Global Infectious Disease program funded by the National Institutes of Health. This program trains young students and scientists from Africa and Asia to conduct both applied and basic research in areas of infectious disease control and prevention that are applicable in their home countries. Allowing these students to contemplate combining scientific concepts with the customs and traditions of their native country is essential for designing new culturally appropriate disease control programs.
The Minority Health International Research Training program for undergraduate and post baccalaureate trainees also funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides training and summer research experience abroad to sites that include Thailand, India, Liberia and Cameroon. Pre travel coursework includes educational modules on community based participatory research and cultural sensitivity before a student participates in their 8-week research project abroad. During their time abroad, students select and participate in a cultural project, which they report on in addition to their research project upon return. The Northern Pacific Global Health (NPGH), also funded by funded by the NIH provides training and research experience abroad in Africa and Asia. Trainees undergo competency-based training program, which includes cultural competency and how to interact and engage with people from different cultures.
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