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Fellows & Scholars at 20: How a single year can have such a profound influence

March/April 2023 | Volume 22 Number 2

Acting Fogarty Director Peter Kilmarx reflects on 20 years for the Fogarty Global Health Fellows & Scholars/LAUNCH program
As Deputy Director of the Fogarty International Center for the last seven years and now as Acting Director, it has always been a pleasure to meet the Fogarty Global Health Fellows and Scholars in their annual orientation or at their research sites around the world. Hearing about their many accomplishments and seeing the impact of former Fellows and Scholars over the years has been truly remarkable.

Headshot of Dr. Peter Kilmarx Read recent blogs and articles from Acting Fogarty Director Dr. Peter Kilmarx.

It is extraordinary to see how a single year can have such a profound, defining influence on one's life and career. Being exposed to new cultures and seeing up close some of the health care challenges in resource-poor settings is very inspiring for the U.S. trainees. Seeing the power of research and discovering how to improve health and health systems is highly motivating for all participants. Receiving mentorship and developing networks are also critical aspects of the professional development our trainees get during their “Fogarty year." Many former trainees describe how they have mentored those who came after them, paying back the benefit to the next generation, like Dr. Gerald Bloomfield, a 2009-10 Fellow, who mentored Dr. Anubha Agarwal, a Fogarty Fellow in 2017-18.

The mission of the Fogarty International Center is to support and facilitate research, build partnerships, and train the next generation of scientists. Even in the short term, the Fellows and Scholars Program is highly effective in advancing these goals. The career trajectories of former trainees and their leadership roles in global health research, education, programs, and policies affirms that this program is a great long-term investment and a “best buy" for Fogarty that should be continued long into the future.

We are very grateful to the many program leaders, staff, and mentors in the United States and around the world for their vision, commitment, and hard work on behalf of the trainees over these past two decades. The seven consortia in the current Launching Future Leaders in Global Health (LAUNCH) Research Training Program and their global partners may be especially commended for their commitment to including trainees with diverse backgrounds and promoting equity for the international program participants. We're thankful for the support of more than a dozen other NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices. Their funding is important, but perhaps more significant are the linkages with their networks of researchers, mentors, and programs, building global health research capacity, partnerships, and careers across a wide span of scientific disciplines and health specialties.

I also appreciate the many Fogarty staff who have dedicated their professional time and energy to supporting this program, especially those in the Division of International Training and Research and also the Office of Communications, who publicize the successes of the trainees. Of course, we applaud the Fellows and Scholars themselves who dedicated a year of their lives early in their careers to a research training experience, which, with great dedication and effort, in many cases led to lifelong commitments.

Finally, we all are indebted to Dr. Roger Glass, who, as the Fogarty Director for 17 of the 20 years of this program, was a tireless champion of the grantees and the trainees, personally connecting with and encouraging them and recruiting support for them from across NIH and around the world.

Congressman John E. Fogarty, for whom our Center was named, was a representative from my home state of Rhode Island and an extraordinarily effective promoter of NIH and international health research and training. He was prescient in his vision, stating, “I think that this matter of expanding research is one, perhaps the one, truly global effort in which all nations can and will join as real partners." The most compelling and recurring theme in the Fellow and Scholar profiles we have written over the years is how real partnerships were formed through the Fogarty Global Health Fellows and Scholars/LAUNCH Program across borders, institutions, professions, and generations. Congressman Fogarty would be astonished, ecstatic, and very proud. 

Updated April 6, 2023

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