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David Addiss speaking about Compassion & Global Health at the ASTMH Symposium

The Impact of Compassion in Global Health and Tropical Medicine
A Symposium at the
Annual Meeting of American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) Philadelphia, Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Introduction
Global health is deeply rooted in compassion and in an awareness of our human interconnectedness. Every day, millions of compassionate acts are offered in primary health care clinics, refugee health units, and public health programs around the world. For those who work in the field of global health, compassion is a core value and a fundamental source of inspiration and motivation.

It seems surprising, therefore, that the role of compassion is rarely acknowledged or discussed in global health organizations, training programs, conferences, or literature. Our collective silence on such a core value limits the potential of global health to fulfill its promise, especially since the field is influenced by many factors other than compassion. Challenges to compassion include, among others, the innate complexity of global health; commercial, institutional, and political interests; a disinclination, especially among scientists, to speak of compassion in professional settings; the need to justify funding for global health programs in economic terms; the challenge of “seeing the faces” when working to improve health of entire populations; and an assumption that scientific and clinical competency is incompatible with compassionate emotion.

Re-discovery of compassion can reinvigorate global health, provide a sense of meaning and connection for those who work in this field, and empower them to connect more deeply, at an intellectual and emotional level, with those they seek to serve. It also can drive the highest quality scientific inquiry and global health action.

Symposium Format

Speakers

David Addiss, MD, MPH, Director, Children Without Worms, Task Force for Global Health

Mark Rosenberg, MD, MPH, Director, Task Force for Global Health

Richard Stanley, Richard Stanley Productions

Presentations / Reflections

Consequential compassion – a new model for global health
Bill Foege, MD, MPH, Senior Fellow, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Compassion and clinical care in global health
Christina Puchalski, MD, MS, Executive Director, George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health, Professor of Medicine and Health Sciences, George Washington University School of Medicine

Compassion in tropical health programs
Frank O. Richards, Jr., MD, Director, River Blindness Program, Lymphatic Filariasis Elimination Program, Schistosomiasis Control Program, and Malaria Control Program, The Carter Center

Select Audience Responses

“This was, by far, one of the most moving and eloquent discussions of this subject that I could ever imagine…let’s keep this discussion going.” –  Phillip Coyne, MD, Assistant Professor of Tropical Public Health, Uniformed Services University and Staff Clinician, Infectious Disease Service at US Navy Hospital

“I just had to write to express my gratitude for putting together the Compassion symposium at the ASTMH conference. The symposium just finished, but I didn’t want to wait to send this email. I have been to several symposiums/sessions at conferences in my young career as a Peds ID physician and this was by far the most rewarding. I really hope this will become an annual part of the ASTMH conference… it was exactly what I needed to encourage me in my global health pursuits!!”  – Francisca Abanyie, MD, MPH, Pediatric Infectious Disease Fellow, Emory University School of Medicine

“The compassion in global health symposium was a milestone for me – I never thought ASTMH would approve a symposium on such a topic.  It’s also been an individual journey as I try to reconnect with my own sense of compassion and motivation for this work.  I was gratified by the response to the symposium, and hope that we find ways to advance the conversation.” – Ann Varghese, IMA World Health