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Merson Heads Duke Global AIDS/Health Institute: $350 million goes to Duke for AIDS research
 
 
  July 26, 2006
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
 
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- One of the country's top AIDS researchers and an expert in international health will lead Duke University's new Global Health Institute, one of several recent moves that puts the school at the forefront of HIV research.
 
Dr. Michael H. Merson, former director of the World Health Organization's AIDS program and a professor at Yale University, will take over as institute director Nov. 1.
 
The university-wide program promises to go beyond medicine by bringing together students in engineering, business and other academic areas to address health issues worldwide.
 
''It's a very exciting opportunity,'' Merson said Tuesday in a telephone interview from New York. ''When I was there (at Duke), I was so impressed with the plans and the commitment. It was a unique chance to make a difference in the world's health.''
 
The appointment comes on the heels of last week's announcement that Duke would receive $46.5 million for AIDS vaccine research from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. More than $350 million has now been given to Duke in the past 13 months for HIV and AIDS research, including grants from the National Institutes of Health.
 
School officials stressed the Global Health Institute would go beyond AIDS research with a special focus on the health inequalities between poor and affluent countries.
 
''The institute's mission is also to educate future global health leaders and scholars, with the real focus on the disparity that exists between the have's and have not's throughout the world,'' Merson said.
 
Faculty and students from throughout the university bringing their expertise in engineering, international law and economics to an area often centered on medicine. Such diversity is vital to global health because curing disease goes beyond finding vaccines, Merson said.
 
''You also need to think about patients taking their drugs, so you need to involve clinical psychologists and people trained in social work. And you want to make sure people don't get infected, so you need public health experts,'' Merson said.
 
Providing cheaper drugs is an area for law students focused on international property rights, while engineers could develop less expensive ways to purify water.
 
''Global health is not only a medical issue, it's a multifaceted social issue,'' added Victor Dzau, chancellor of health affairs, who helped develop the program with university President Richard Brodhead. ''If we can bring together all these areas of expertise, we can really address the problem and find solutions.''
 
Merson worked for the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, from 1978 through 1995, and spent the last five year's as director of the organization's Global Program on AIDS, which has worked to control the disease worldwide.
 
He joined Yale in 1995 as dean of Public Health at the School of Medicine. Merson now heads the university's Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS, which operates research and projects in about 20 countries.
 
Merson earned his medical degree at the State University of New York Health Science Center in Brooklyn before completing his internship and residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
 
He spent three years working for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he was promoted to chief medical epidemiologist at the Cholera Research Laboratory in Bangladesh.
 
Merson has written more than 175 articles and is senior editor of International Public Health.
 
''We did an international search, and he was head and shoulders above all the other candidates if you look at what he's done,'' Dzau said.
 
 
 
 
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