Last summer, Emily Mosites EPH ’08 spent 11 weeks traveling the most rural areas of the Kintampo, Ghana on foot. She and her team were searching villages for people unknowingly infected with hookworm — a soil-born parasite that is a leading cause of anemia and malnutrition in the developing world.
Mosites found prevalence to be alarmingly high — with 45 percents of Ghanaians in the area infected. But of those living with the disease, many had never made it to a diagnostic facility, let alone accessed treatment.
“The closest diagnostic facility is five miles away, and people don’t have cars,” she said. “A great number had never accessed a health care facility in their lives.”
Mosites is among many Yale students and faculty members who have conducted field research in Accra, thanks to a two-way training initiative established in 2007 by Michael Cappello, a professor of Microbial Pathogenesis at the medical school.
The program, which establishes links with the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in Ghana, aims to equip Ghanaian researchers to fight against infectious diseases, in place of relying on foreign aid — “teaching them how to fish, instead of handing the fish to them,” explained Elijah Paintsil, an associate research scientist at YSM, who helped Cappello start up the initiative.
“Ghana has faced much brain drain in recent years,” Painstil said. “The Noguchi initiative is, in my mind, a reversal of brain drain.”
The initiative focuses on two-way collaboration: Researchers from Yale spend time in Ghana learning about endemic infectious agents and obtaining field experience, while Ghanaian researchers come to Yale to learn state-of-the-art research methods they can take home, Cappello said.
The initiative is just one of several Cappello has undertaken during his time at Yale that bridge the gap between the University and the international realm.
Back on the home front, Cappello divides his time between his research activities on the molecular biology of hookworm and his responsibilities as director of the Yale World Fellows program and co-director of the Yale International Adoption Clinic.
The unique World Fellows program — created in 2002 — brings together a group of 18 accomplished global leaders, selected through a rigorous application process for a four-month leadership program at Yale, Cappello said. During their stay, the group is invited to immerse themselves within the community — to audit courses, give lectures, take part in research and enroll in a specially-designed seminar.
“The purpose is to increase international understanding here on campus among students and faculty,” Cappello said. “The program also creates a network of leaders — people who have created change around them — who become bound by this shared experience.”
The multidisciplinary program attracts World Fellows from diverse backgrounds, he said. This year’s World Fellows included a policy advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin, a judge from Jamaica, an Egyptian foreign affairs minister and one of Southeast Asia’s most acclaimed playwrights.
While juggling the responsibilities of this expanding initiative, Cappello also helps run Connecticut’s only International Adoption Clinic — in line with his interest in pediatrics, as founding director of the Yale Program in International Child Health.
The clinic, which was among the first established in the region, specializes in testing children adopted from foreign countries for remnants of diseases and developmental or psychological conditions, said Margaret Hospetter, chair of Pediatrics at the medical school, who founded the Clinic in 1998.
Since then, this field has grown in such a big way that “adoption medicine” has now become an official pediatric speciality, she added.
With so many international samplings on his plate, Cappello said he sees his various responsibilities as “very different, but complementary.”
“As I split my time now between [the World Fellows Program and my laboratory], my offices are on opposite ends of campus,” he said with a laugh. “But what I love the most is that, at around lunch time, I get to leave one office and go to the next.”