U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

NIH: Fogarty International Center NIH: Fogarty International Center
Advancing Science for Global Health
Advancing Science for Global Health
Home > Global Health Fellows & Scholars at 20 > Pioneers and Leaders in Global Health Research Print

Fogarty Global Health Fellows & Scholars: Pioneers and leaders in global health research

A message from former Director Roger I. Glass

Dr. Roger Glass poses with former Fellows Drs. Evelyn Hsieh and Laura Lewandowski at Fogarty’s 50th Anniversary celebrationFogarty International CenterDr. Roger Glass poses with former Fellows Drs. Evelyn Hsieh and Laura Lewandowski at Fogarty’s 50th Anniversary celebration.

Some people question why the U.S. should invest in the training of American and foreign investigators in the broad area of global health. They ask, what's in it for us? There are many compelling answers to this question, and we see many reciprocal innovations—where discoveries made through our global collaborations directly impact how we care for patients at home.

Over the past 20 years, the Fogarty International Center at NIH has provided the opportunity for outstanding pre- and postdoctoral students, from the U.S. and around the globe, in medicine or the health sciences to participate in a one-year program in global health research. Through our Global Health Fellows and Scholars program, now called 'LAUNCH,' trainees develop research proposals of their choosing to be conducted at academic centers in a low- or middle-income country (LMIC) with mentors both in the U.S. and in the institution and country they select. The program's goal has been to build the research workforce in global health by exposing students to the unique opportunities available to address research problems in health that cannot be studied at home. For many, this experiential learning has been transformative, a career catalyst.

As part of this 20th anniversary, we surveyed nearly 700 of the over 1,450 program alumni to determine if their current role reflects a continuing engagement in the theme of global health. These trainees, about half American and half foreign, currently supported by more than 24 U.S. institutions, have worked in 48 countries and published thousands of papers.

More importantly, many have or are becoming leaders in global health and continue to study topics they first engaged with during their time with the program. With the help of mentors and other collaborative programs, many have continued their research and partnerships long after their fellowships ended. Many alumni of this program are pioneers, leaders, and major contributors to global health research and have provided multi-year returns on our investments in their training.

As I look around at American leaders in global health today, many began their careers by spending a year or more in an academic setting in an LMIC, where they were challenged to adapt their expertise and address a compelling global health problem. International research in the 20th century was highly focused on infectious diseases—especially HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria. Yet, with the world's population growing increasingly old in the 21st century, study topics have expanded to address the dual burden of acute infectious diseases and chronic, noncommunicable diseases, including mental health, cancer, heart disease, and others. With these changes, the Fogarty Global Health Fellows and Scholars/LAUNCH program has evolved over the past 20 years. Today we see our fellows studying an ever-broadening range of topics, with infectious diseases and HIV/AIDS representing only about half of all fellowships.

Dr. Roger Glass poses with the 2017 fellows and scholars cohortFogarty International CenterDr. Roger Glass poses with the 2017 fellows and scholars cohort.

We have found our Fogarty trainees on the front lines of the epidemics of HIV/AIDS, Ebola, Zika, and COVID-19 over these last two decades, using their skills to track the spread of disease and conduct studies of new diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines. Their work abroad gives U.S. researchers access to global partners and clinical trial data needed to advance research to prevent and control disease.

Similarly, we have identified populations in LMICs who, through collaborations, have enabled us to determine the viral causes of cancer and the genetic basis of many diseases both common, such as Alzheimer's disease, and rare. We have also learned about a full range of neurologic diseases from the work of our trainees in this program. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that the world is interconnected. Only through global collaboration and the trust built through international research partnerships can we rapidly advance biomedical research and develop new ways to deliver care.

After 20 years, some of our former trainees have become leaders in global health while others are rising stars continuing to pursue research on pressing global health issues. Their accounts tell a compelling story of how this program has impacted their careers, given them insight into the challenges we face in global health, and empowered them to contribute to improving health for all.

Updated April 6, 2023

To view Adobe PDF files, download current, free accessible plug-ins from Adobe's website.