Wabash Formalizes Global Health Partnership
by Howard W. Hewitt
September 5, 2013
Biology Professor Eric Wetzel’s work in global health has led to a formal agreement between Wabash College and Universidad Nacional Hermilio Valdizan (UNHEVAL), Huanuco, Peru, on future research and health projects.
The formal agreement signed by Wabash College President Gregory Hess and UNHEVAL Rector Dr. Guillermo A. Boncangel Weydert, establishes a formal relationship for future research, immersion learning possibilities, and student/faculty exchanges.
“I’ve been saying the last couple years that Wabash’s Global Health Initiative is more real in Peru than here,” Wetzel said. “This is a really a good step to making it an official program here at Wabash. This agreement is a general agreement to exchange ideas, invitations, and opportunities. It’s a really big deal for them to have the document that says you have an agreement. It is a really important thing not only for the University there but specifically for some of our collaborators.”
Nationally, Peru healthcare initiatives have been underfunded resulting in myriad health problems in the country’s poorest regions. Malaria and yellow fever remain significant diseases in the South American country, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The safety of water and sanitary services is spotty throughout many regions.
The agreement, Wetzel argues, might be a bigger advancement for UNHEVAL than Wabash.
“Sometimes you think you have to jump through hoops in this country," Wetzel explained. "Well in other places you may have to jump through 10 times as many hoops. Now we have an agreement and if we need vans, lab space, or whatever this will make everything smoother when we work there. It will also make it easier for them doing research on collaborative projects.
“It opens more formal opportunities for Wabash students to go there and do work.”
President Hess signed the initiative August 14. UNHEVAL’s President/Rector signed days earlier.
“All of us at Wabash are proud of the work Professor Wetzel has done to establish our global health program in Peru,” President Hess said. “Our mission calls us to educate young men to think critically, act responsibly, lead effectively, and live humanely. Our program in Peru emphasizes all four of those elements.
"We know our graduates will leave our campus and become leaders who will be challenged to solve the world’s most vexing problems. The experiences they gain studying in Peru will equip them with the skills they need to do exactly that.”
Wetzel said the program establishes agreed upon fields of exchange and cooperation. He can see two-way invitations for lectures, conferences, and seminars. Ideally, he said, it would be “awesome for [Peruvian] students or faculty members to visit Wabash and tie the visit into a global health or Latin America history course.
“Global health is a multi-disciplinary thing. The leaders in Peru are very open to it not just being biology oriented.”
Dean of the College Gary Phillips said Wetzel’s effort is paying off in concrete ways. “Over recent years, Eric has led students and faculty in travel to Peruvian coastal, mountain, and rain forest villages to demonstrate that liberal arts teaching and learning makes a difference in the lives of others. The formal relationship opens up new possibilities for expanding and deepening the opportunities for Peruvian students and faculty and their Wabash counterparts through travel and research to collaborate on global health problems.”
The Dean also sees the agreement as another example of how Wabash College changes young men’s lives. The impact of such an agreement, he said, shows small communities far from Crawfordsville that a small, Midwestern liberal arts college for men meets the needs of the nation and the world.
“Beyond advancing a global health program of study, Eric has done a great service to the College in showing what informed service to others means,” Phillips said. “He shows how personal calling, professional life, and institutional mission mesh. This is a powerful statement to all of us.”
With a signed agreement, Wetzel turns to what’s next. “What has to follow is more specific projects, more specific agreements,” he said. “I have already expressed my desire to work in poor communities on the impact of various diseases (e.g. water-borne diseases) and the impact on children and women in those areas.
“This allows Wabash students to get a picture of working in an area in Peru and for them to get a picture of another level of 'living humanely.'”
More importantly, Wetzel said, the agreement paves the way for additional cooperation. “Wabash is beginning to invest in different places around the world and that’s an important opportunity and portal for our students.”
Wetzel also noted the on-going assistance of Peruvian colleague Jorge Cardenas who does much of the planning for the Global Health Initiative work.