Leapfrogging: The Way Forward for Developing Health Systems

Health Systems Leapfrogging

I really liked this white paper from the Boston Consulting Group and the World Economic Forum on how emerging economies can build effective health systems through “leapfrogging,” or essentially utilizing existing technology and infrastructure from developed economies in a way that avoids the once needed development cost of creating said resources. This is an area of academic interest that I will be studying in far more depth in the next year.

CUGH- Trainee Advisory Committee Call for Applications


We are writing to invite you to join the Trainee Advisory Committee (TAC) of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH).

The committee is composed of trainees from undergraduate and graduate levels in any discipline with an interest in global health working to bring the trainee voice and perspective to CUGH.

TAC members are involved in the work of the various CUGH committees, including trainee outreach, health policy, social media and the annual CUGH conference. The TAC meets online on a regular basis and yearly in person at the conference. The overall workload ranges from 1-5 hours per week. Finally, all members accepted to the CUGH are expected to attend the CUGH Global Health Conference which will take place in Boston, MA, March 26-28 2015. Handover and training of future TAC members will take place during that time.

To be eligible, candidates must:

  1. be trainees, i.e. students registered at an educational institution at either an undergraduate or a graduate level program
  2. have an interest in global health
  3. have submitted a complete application on time

Candidates will be selected based on:

  1. current involvement in global health work
  2. interest in CUGH activities and capacity to contribute to the TAC
  3. prior experience in global health and organizational management will be taken into account

In order to apply, please submit the following documents to cugh.tac@gmail.com prior to January 23rd 2015:

  1. Letter of interest (1 page maximum)
  2. Curriculum Vitae
  3. Completion of the following form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1U7p1-SDvwbU7rukTFt02jb4Zp2TYvOgGUoqcGjEoyxQ/viewform

Applicants who have submitted complete applications will be notified by email. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to write to us.

Abraar Karan
TAC Founding Member


A Special Moment

As I continue on in my career in global health, I find it important to reflect back on key moments. One that is particularly energizing is from the Unite for Sight Global Health Conference from 2009, where I had been selected as one of the Volunteers of the Year for my research on informed consent and multimedia aids to improve services for illiterate villagers undergoing cataract surgery. I was also asked that year to serve on the conference’s plenary panel moderated by Jeffrey Sachs, a world renowned economist whose book I had read that past summer while I was in India. The experience for me was surreal at the time– I had never sat before an audience of that size (it took place in Yale’s largest auditorium with an audience of over 2000 people), and meeting Dr. Sachs face to face after reading hundreds of pages written by him was strange yet awesome all at once. My nervousness is obvious from the interruption of “ums” and “uhhs” throughout my answers. Continue reading

Lancet Highlights 2014 Winner

My anti-sex trafficking research from India was recently selected as one of the 12 winners of the annual Lancet Highlights competition. The Highlights competition is essentially a selection of the best photographs and accompanying stories in global health from around the world. The featured photograph (not shown here) is of my students in the middle of their bhangra practice. I’ve included another photo, also from the same day in practice, which is one of my personal favorites as it frames the girls in mid-dance. We used bhangra as a way to empower girls and help fight back against oppressive traditions of intergenerational prostitution in these communities.


A Lonely Journey

What is it
That keeps you up
At night, even while others sleep
That wakes you up
In the morning, earlier than the sun awakens
What is it
That which you live for
That which lives in you

Never let it go

A Meeting with Melinda Gates

Last week, I had a unique opportunity to meet one of the most influential people in the world– Melinda Gates. Invited through a joint event by the UCLA Burkle International Center and the UCLA Center for World Health, Melinda delivered the annual UCLA Harbenger Distinguished Lecture on Economic Development where she spoke about the work of her foundation, and her outlook on global development in general.

Speaking about my project on global health accountability

Prior to the lecture, a small group of undergraduate and graduate students with significant global health and development experience were selected to meet with her in a more intimate setting. The most striking thing about Melinda is how starkly genuine she is, both as a person and as a philanthropist. She broke the tension in the room with sarcasm, and answered our questions without hesitation– no script, just honesty. She admitted to areas where the Gates Foundation could do better (she did this on a larger scale in this article in Science), and shared her thoughts on the most pressing issues in society.

I do wish we asked her questions about her own life– successes, failures, lessons learned. It’s not often that you meet someone with such an eclectic life experience, and it was a great moment for me to once again rethink my own career objectives. I’ll be following up with the Gates Foundation regarding a project of mine on global health accountability which I have yet to formally launch– more to come on this soon.

The Global Health Write: Presentation at UFS 2014

Earlier this year I wrote about a new project I’m spearheading to help physicians and public health researchers in low-income regions improve their chances for academic publications in English, peer-reviewed journals. Below you can find part of my presentation from the 2014 Unite for Sight Global Health and Innovation Summit where I first unveiled the idea. We had an exceptional reception from the audience with excellent suggestions and many professors and students interested in taking part.

Please contact me directly if you are interested in working on this with us!

An Instagram for Global Health: Calling for the Best Shots Out There

Part of Project TTE (Copyright: Abraar Karan)

Having recently joined Instagram a few weeks ago, the first users and hashtags I looked for were those related to global health. I was surprised by the dearth of what I found– there are barely over 3000 photos tagged with the hashtag #globalhealth. Compare this to #medicine (nearly 900k), #healing (slightly over 600k), #health (over 10.5 million), #poverty (93k)– you get the picture (no pun intended). When looking through the users, the only recognizable name I saw was that of the World Bank, which posts great photos with telling captions. For those who are on Instagram, you are surely familiar with the numerous accounts that post the best pictures from around the web of different topics such as vacations, cars, people, nature, animals and the list goes on. I’ve taken the liberty (and opportunity) of starting one for global health.

The account is @SM_GlobalHealth and will be hosted and maintained by SM. We will be reposting the best photos of community organizations and individuals in action from around the world who are engaged in global health and medical work. We are hoping to see pictures that tell stories– this is a call for all to share the experiences, successes, challenges, hardships, and hopes of those overcoming disease and poverty. The intention of this account is to make known to the public what is happening in global health through pictures. Only appropriate photos with thoughtful captions will be reposted, with proper attribution given to the owners of the photograph.

There has been a fantastic influx of photographers in global health– I wrote previously about James Nachtwey and his photographs of people suffering from XDR-TB, and Project Through Their Eyes, a photojournalism project I authored sharing the stories of Indian villagers undergoing free cataract operations through an NGO’s outreach efforts. I have also been an avid photographer for the past several years, and I have many photos of work from Africa, Latin America, and India at my own photoblog, The Photographaar. The new instagram account is an effort to share the photographs of all of you out there who have a passion for global health, story-telling, and have some eye-catching photographs to tie it all together.

Again, the new account is: @SM_GlobalHealth

The Global Health Write: Expanding Publication Opportunities for Low-Income Countries

I recently returned from the Unite for Sight Global Health and Innovation Conference where I was selected to present my recent research in Mozambique and other projects in the works. One of my talks was regarding a non-profit which I’m currently designing called “The Global Health Write.” In short, 97.5% of research publications come from 31 countries worldwide, only 1 of which is located in a “low-income region” (that single country is South Africa, which is really a developmental  anomaly relative to its neighbors). We can all agree that as part of  global health equity, horizontal partnerships, and the goal of building local capacity, it is important that countries in the Global South and their accompanying biomedical institutions establish stronger research programs and increase their overall research output. There are of course many limitations to this which cannot be ignored– the lack of basic medical infrastructure, the absence of functional institutional review boards to protect human subjects, the limitation of an underdeveloped research ethic, and more– but there are still hundreds of researchers who, after overcoming these obstacles, have trouble publishing due to the basic issue of language. Most medical/public health academic publications are primarily written in English. Having served as a content editor for an African journal, and currently serving as the editor of an upcoming volume on global health with contributions primarily from authors in developing regions where English is not the main language, I can attest to the notion that the ideas and findings are out there, but are simply not being communicated as well as they could and should be. Continue reading

Typhoon Haiyan Fundraiser- Support Our Efforts

I’m working with classmates at UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, the Fielding School of Public Health, and the School of Nursing on an ongoing fundraiser to continue raising money for the Philippines to support the several capacity rebuilding projects currently in progress. We strongly believe that the weeks and months after catastrophe, when the media is no longer publicizing the aftermath, is the most important time to re-double fundraising efforts. We have hosted several social events in the Los Angeles area and met our initial goal of $3000– we are now aiming for $6000. Our funds are going toward the Super Typhoon Haiyan Relief Fund, which has currently raised nearly $1.5 million. We researched several fundraising avenues to ensure our partner was transparent and efficient with funds, the result of which was Global Giving, one of the top charities on Charity Navigator. Please share our effort widely, consider donating, and feel free to contact me directly if you have specific questions or would like to partner with us.