ST. LOUIS -- Edwin Trevathan, M.D., MPH, has been dean of Saint Louis University's School of Public Health for about three months and is ready to take on the world.
|Edwin Trevathan, M.D., MPH|
"We are going to significantly enhance our global health activities," said Trevathan, who most recently directed the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.
"Saint Louis University School of Public Health is in a wonderful position to marry our commitment to social justice with our ability to create programs that dramatically improve the health of people around the world. Making the world better is in our DNA. As the only accredited school of public health in a Jesuit or Catholic university, we have a moral imperative to not only think globally, but to act globally."
Trevathan is already discussing opportunities for collaboration with other global Jesuit organizations, such as the Jesuit Refugee Service.
"We are in a unique position to collaborate with great Jesuit and Catholic organizations to bring the School of Public Health expertise to the people of the developing world, as well as communities here at home that suffer from poor health outcomes," Trevathan added.
World health commitment
SLU's School of Public is building upon a tradition of global involvement.
Five years ago, Fernando Serrano, Ph.D., now an assistant professor of community health at SLU, led a team of colleagues to study environmental pollution in La Oroya, Peru. The team found high levels of metals in residents who lived near the Doe Run Peru metal smelter and refinery. Early next year, the SLU School of Public Health plans to bring leaders of Peruvian community groups and universities to campus to teach them how to put evidence-based environmental health initiatives into practice.
Roger Lewis, Ph.D., director of the division of environmental and occupational health, has been working in the shanty settlements of the Dominican Republic on a simple system that local businesses can set up to purify drinking water and prevent diseases such as childhood diarrhea, which can be deadly.
This week, Zhengmin Qian, M.D., Ph.D., an epidemiologist and associate professor of community health, and Trevathan are in Wuhan, China, to study the effects of air pollution on pregnant women. Qian has received a grant to evaluate whether air pollutants at levels found in developing Asian countries are linked to increased rates of preterm birth and low birth weight in Wuhan.
In many ways, Qian's work complements that of another School of Public Health epidemiologist, Louise Flick, DrPH, who is the principal investigator locally on the landmark National Children's Study. The largest long-term study of child health ever conducted in the U.S., the research project will include 100,000 participants representing all parts of the country. Its goal is to capture critical environmental and genetic data to improve the health of future generations of children.
"We need to not only be interested in the people around the world, but also those who are down the street. We need to ask ourselves, ‘what are we doing to improve public health globally, in the bootheel of Missouri and in the St. Louis community?'" Trevathan said.
"Infant mortality rates in the inner city of St. Louis and in rural Missouri are comparable to those in developing countries. We can do better and must do better."
As the country struggles to find solutions to our exceptionally complicated health care system, graduates of health management and policy programs offered by schools of public health will be in high demand, Trevathan added.
"As a nation, we must find a way to depoliticize health care. Professionals who let the scientific evidence lead them to new opportunities for improved health must lead the way to improved health for future generations - a movement that transcends political ideology," he said.
Plans for growth
Trevathan plans to add faculty and increase the number of undergraduate programs. The School of Public Health currently offers undergraduate degrees in public health and in health management.
"The undergraduate public health programs are appealing and are in high demand," Trevathan said. "For instance, at one university there are 500 undergraduate students are on a waiting list, trying to get in to study public health. With our service-oriented mission, Saint Louis University School of Public Health is at the right place at the right time. This place is going to take off."
Accredited since 1991, Saint Louis University School of Public Health remains the only accredited school of public health in Missouri. It is one of 44 fully accredited public health schools in the U.S. and the only accredited Jesuit or Catholic school in the nation.