Around the World and Back
Leading a global institution into the future
Joseph C. Kolars, M.D., has seen a lot of the world. And it’s given him a unique perspective on global health care.
The new Senior Associate Dean for Education and Global Health Initiatives was bitten by the global health bug as a medical student at the University of Minnesota. “I saved up all my electives so that I had six months off to be able to go and experience medicine in another culture,” Kolars says. He spent the time in Nepal and India, where he worked briefly with Mother Teresa in her Home for the Dying.
He recalls, “So many things I thought were givens – based on what I’d learned back in the States – didn’t apply when you were in different cultures, different places, with other resources. The experience called upon me to ask myself how I could really make a difference.”
Since then, Kolars has made a difference in Africa, working for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as in South America and in China, where he and his family lived for three years while he created a new health system in Shanghai that also serves as a learning site for local physicians.
Here at the Health System, Kolars will lead the Medical School’s oversight and expansion of its educational mission and global initiatives.
Kolars says, “I don’t subscribe to the belief that just because you have global activity you are being a global institution. Global institutions should be measured by their ability to transform health through the people they partner with.
“There’s an old Chinese proverb, ‘Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime.’ What we’re trying to do is teach people in the developing world how to eat, but more importantly, we’re trying to come back from our work and make sure that they’re still catching fish.
“When people in the developing world are looking for a collaborator, I want them to come to U-M first because of our reputation for having authentic partnerships that really develop people in other programs in their country.
“It’s our time – and this is our moment – to really articulate the Michigan difference when it comes to partnering with the developing world.”
Written by Cathy Mellett
Inside View Editorial Advisory Group
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