A Friday, March 22 speaking event in Memorial Union Building Room 334, hosted by Dr. Michael W. Diamond and through UNH Students for Global Health, highlighted his personal journey to eradicate polio in foreign countries, as well as emphasizing a “glo-cal” view of healthcare that stresses aid to smaller international communities on a global scale.
Throughout his hour-plus talk, entitled “Keeping the Human in Healthcare,” Diamond, a medical anthropologist who began his international medical career in Bangladesh working for the YMCA following the country’s violent war for independence, touched upon his own personal experiences in ridding poor countries and its populations of numerous diseases like polio. The muscle-weakening virus served as Diamond’s primary focus, where he described his collaborations with organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, UNICEF and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in countries like India, where, due to the efforts of Diamond and others in cities like New Delhi and smaller communities, there have been no reported cases of the polio virus in the nation since 2011.
Part of Diamond’s success stemmed from a series of steps (which the doctor called a “methodology”) for dealing with cases of polio, including the promotion of “routine immunization,” the establishment of “National Immunization Days” urging everyone to get treated for the disease, and environmental “sampling” to create environments where the disease cannot spread and infect entire communities, per Diamond’s corresponding PowerPoint presentation.
“All health, in my view, is basically human health and, more importantly, is community health,” Diamond said. “And we when think about communities and people, it doesn’t matter whether it’s local or global; it’s ‘glo-cal,’ it’s all about what’s happening at the local community level.”
Worldwide, in part due to Diamond’s work, polio only remains in the Middle Eastern countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan as of 2019, with four cases of the virus in the former and two in the latter, according to an info-graphic map of the world in the presentation.
Part of his success stemmed from meeting with local doctors and medical personnel in the countries he visited and improving their own health centers along the way. Diamond stressed to attendees that, despite technological innovation, physical on-the-ground efforts to eradicate diseases remain the most viable efforts.
“…often times, they talk about the fear that a lot of this new technology is going to be replacing a lot of the jobs many of us have in terms of diagnostics or other types of care, and I’m here to say, please don’t worry about that, especially when it comes to health,” he said. “Even with the most incredible advancements in technology which are truly astounding and lifechanging in so many ways, we’re still going to need people in the process. The question is what roles you will have may definitely change, but we’re absolutely going to need people in the process in dealing with health…”
Diamond also took time during his presentation to point out the numerous sponsors and supporters of his line of work, including organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, FIFA and De Beers, as well as celebrities such as Ted Turner, Mia Farrow and tennis player Martina Hingis. He cited his numerous collaborations in part to inspire attendees, many of whom were members of UNH Students for Global Health, to form their own partnerships on and off-campus to tackle social and medical issues.
“I am so impressed with the work that you guys are doing, and the fact that you’re not only organizing yourselves [and] focusing on a very wide range of global health issues,” Diamond said, “but the fact that you are reaching across campus to a whole range of other organizations – engineers, neuroscientists, other departments…the fact is you’re reaching out and building cross-organizational alliances for issues that are very interdisciplinary, and I think that issue of collaboration…is really important and very hard to do.”
Despite a low attendance of only 15 people, attendees like junior occupational therapy major Jessica Bobyock gave Diamond and his experiences a positive reception.
Bobyock, who also serves as the outreach coordinator in charge of events like Diamond’s visit and as “pseudo-treasurer” of UNH Students for Global Health, told The New Hampshire following the meeting that events like Diamond’s talk are important for students as they can “drop in reminders every semester throughout the semester…inspiring people on why they’re studying what they’re studying, why you’re doing what you’re doing, because it can get to people sometimes, I think; so it’s important to kind of sprinkle these opportunities throughout the semester and bring opportunities around so that people can be reminded of what’s important and what you’re working towards.”