Transformative Education
for Health Professionals

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Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) http://uaem.org/

Gloria Tavera, Annie Liang, April Cheng

Without access to affordable treatments and preventative healthcare measures (vaccines, diagnostics), universal health coverage will not be financially sustainable. UAEM is an international alliance of students from diverse backgrounds. Founded by students who succeeded in making a university-developed HIV medication available for generic production, it now has 70 chapters around the world. UAEM addresses the issues of access to medicine, alignment of innovation with the global disease burden and empowerment of students to improve the access to medicines landscape. This effort includes various approaches to educating not only UAEM’s membership but also decision-makers and the public. 

Full project description: 

UAEM relies on a decentralized, grassroots approach to education. It empowers youth and creates a network for interprofessional education (IPE) based on quality peer to peer education. The intersection of access to essential medicines in the areas of law, medicine, public health and economics allows for an interdisciplinary approach. The provision of an online platform and advocacy-focused conferences allows future healthcare professionals to inform each other of current events, and the creation of collaborative projects by tapping into student networks. UAEM Evidence is an online tool to encourage education outside of the classroom. Additionally, UAEM has collaborated with organizations such as MSF, UNITAID and the Consortium of Universities for Global Health to provide opportunities for external engagement for students. This allows for a continuous self-directed education program that is not only relevant, but also low-resource and self-sustaining.

UAEM believes that change starts locally, with students influencing their university’s research agenda and policies. UAEM’s most recent project, the “University Global Health Impact Report Card,” seeks to compare the top U.S. and Canadian research universities on their contribution to urgent global health research. It assesses research innovation, technology access and student empowerment to meet the world’s most neglected health needs. The Report Card aims to incentivize university investment in NTD research and to increase implementation of access-oriented university licensing policies.

UAEM also seeks to educate future healthcare professionals through curriculum development, with topics ranging from the use of patents and ethics in research and development, to education on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and the role of international laws in trade and health. To name a few examples: Sonja Babovic at the University of British Columbia created a seminar course entitled 'Increasing Access to Essential Medicines' for undergraduate students, providing knowledge of patent laws, trade agreements and their effects on the affordability of medicines worldwide. Sandeep Kishore, while a medical student at Weill Cornell Medical College helped create their Global Health Curriculum. Today it is a longitudinal program that includes coursework and a mentored pathway for engaging with resource‐poor communities. The UAEM Alberta chapter proposed a student-driven neglected disease curriculum to garner interest in pursuing NTD research and to ensure that products resulting from university research are licensed in line with global access provisions (GALF). This has since resulted in the creation of the Alberta Neglected Disease Research Fund, aiming to pool $100,000 to fund basic and applied science research on NTDs at the University of Alberta.

As future healthcare professionals, UAEM takes part in addressing evolving healthcare needs within communities and globally, by influencing policy decisions. Examples include accepted submissions on humanitarian drug licensing to the 2012 “Consultative Expert Working on Research and Development: Financing and Coordination (CEWG)” and subsequent student representation at the World Health Assembly. UAEM Europe spearheaded advocacy efforts to include humanitarian licensing provisions in Europe’s Horizon 2020 initiative --the biggest EU research and innovation programme, developed with over €80 billion of funding available, to ensure that access to these innovations remains accessible downstream of the drug development process. Following the 2010 UAEM University Innovation Symposium, a subsequent student-driven event, backed by DNDi, is scheduled for May 2015 and seeks to create an interdisciplinary problem-solving forum to allow key players in the field to work collaboratively toward solutions, and to engage students on today’s most pressing global health issues.

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