Johnson & Johnson is contributing to the effort to keep the globe healthy by donating $525,000 to the School of Medicine’s Physician Scholars in International Health Program this year. As a result, 83 physicians and residents were awarded Yale/Johnson & Johnson Scholar Awards, sending them to practice in needy areas around the world.
The program — which was founded in 1981 by Dr. Michele Barry, director of the International Health Program, and Dr. Frank Bia — currently sends physicians from various institutions to 16 foreign sites, ranging from Cuba to Vietnam. Johnson & Johnson has funded the program for three years, bringing its total support to over $1 million.
The program offers any physician, including retirees, the chance to work overseas, Barry said.
“The purpose of the program is to give younger physicians a more global perspective on medicine, as well as the chance to work in a place not afforded the type of technology we are used to,” Barry said. “The program also allows older or retired physicians to give back by tapping resources that may be going untapped.”
Dr. Maya Salameh, who worked in Cuba’s medical system as a scholar, said she now has a more global understanding of medicine.
“The cultural experience of visiting a country like Cuba was very important for me,” Salameh said. “It’s easy for us to get comfortable with our way of practicing medicine, and it helps to be reminded that most physicians in the world do not have the luxuries we have and have learned to practice without them.”
Conrad Person, director of International Programs and Product Giving at Johnson & Johnson, said the company wanted to support the program as soon as they learned about it.
“We liked the fact that we could reach residents from a variety of universities and give physicians the chance to take on this experience,” Person said.
The selection of scholars is a national competition, with approximately one half of the recipients coming from Yale and the other half from around the country, Barry said.
Person said he is always impressed with the feedback provided by physicians after their time abroad.
“Participants will do a brief presentation at a dinner we hold, and they will talk about what [the experience] meant to them personally,” he said. “The pictures they show tell the story better than all the words in the world.”
Barry said she hopes the program will become bidirectional, with the foreign sites sending some of their physicians here to get further training. She said she also hopes that the program will blossom nationally by collaborating with the Peace Corps or the National Health Service Corps.
Person said Johnson & Johnson believes in the value of this endeavor and has designated it a Johnson & Johnson signature program.
“The doctors are committed to the places they serve, and the most common thing we hear them say is ‘I want to go back,'” he said. “That kind of connection is what we are looking for — for people to see the entire globe’s health as important.”