Georgetown’s Mark Dybul Finds “Great Opportunity” in Uneasy Global Health Environment

April 8, 2017 - Despite the rapidly changing political environment in much of the world, Georgetown alum Mark Dybul (C'85, M'92), MD, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said he is cautiously optimistic and sees “great opportunity” in the current global health environment.

The renowned global health leader and professor of medicine at Georgetown made his comments Friday during the opening plenary session of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH) annual conference in Washington.

“Remarkable Time”

As many would expect, Dybul wasn’t the first at CUGH to publicly acknowledge the unease about the political environment. “I understand that people are focused on the U.S., but the global atmosphere is really important,” Dybul said as he pointed out the “remarkable time” of economic and political change throughout the world.

The self-described cautious optimist described two paths forward. “One path is to look inward and backward usually with fear and its constant companion, hate. Or you can look outward and forward -- hopefully.”

Useable Data

Dybul noted that global health doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  “We have to see where the world is going and fit into that context.”

Dybul sees data as important leverage in the current environment.

“There’s a huge opportunity,” he said. However, he added the global health community needs to do a much better job at capturing and translating the data in a way that is useable by policy makers.

Broadening Reach

Dybul pointed out an additional opportunity in forwarding global health objectives.

“We need to bring more and more of the people from the national security apparatus and the defense apparatus into the conversation. They are some of the best advocates,” he said.

“We should never lose the humanitarian piece, because it is huge and important. Most people do not go into politics because they want to fight political battles. Most people go into it because they want to do something important,” he said.

“I think we are in a position where if we are careful, smart and strategic, we can actually have tremendous opportunity in this moment of challenge and actually tip toward the looking forward, outward, and hopefully. Because I think that is where most people want to be. I think if we do that, we can make tremendous progress.”

Economic Mobility

Dybul was joined on the panel by Victor Dzau, president of the National Academy of Medicine; Hester Klopper, vice rector of Stellenbosch University in South Africa; and Patricia Davidson, dean of John Hopkins University’s nursing school. The panel discussion was moderated by CUGH executive director Keith Martin.

Martin asked Dybul and fellow panelists to identify a major problem and a potential solution in the world.  

Dybul immediately honed in on a familiar challenge - migration, though he proposed that the language change. “We should stop using the word ‘migration.’ ‘Migration’ scares people. Call it economic mobility."

Experienced Leader

After his tenure at the Global Fund ends in late May, Dybul is expected to rejoin colleagues on the Hilltop as part of Georgetown University Medical Center.

Dybul is a graduate of Georgetown College and Georgetown’s School of Medicine. After completing a residency in Chicago, Dybul joined the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases as a fellow and worked on basic and clinical HIV research. He conducted the first randomized, controlled trial with combination antiretroviral therapy in Africa.  

Not long after, Dybul became a principal founding architect for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), then served as the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator.  His first return to Georgetown was in 2009 when he served as co-director of the Global Health Law Program at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, where he remains a distinguished scholar. He began his role at the Global Fund in 2013.

Urban Health

GUMC was represented by others at the CUGH conference.  

Sadhana Rajamoorthy (M’14), MD, a scholar in the global health residency track in family medicine, presented a poster titled “Global is Local: Assessing Family Medicine Residency Programs’ Training on the Care of Immigrants, Migrants, Torture Survivors, Asylees and Refugees.”  Co-authors included Lamere Buchanan, a medical student from Howard University, Shoshana Aleinikoff (M’12), MD, and Ranit Mishori, MD, MHS, FAAFP, director of global health initiatives in the family medicine department.

Preceding the CUGH conference, the School of Nursing & Health Studies department of international health, the International Society for Urban Health and the New York Academy of Medicine hosted a satellite session titled “Urban Health: A Global Challenge.”

Global urban health experts, advocates and those working on the ground discussed the rapidly urbanizing world, and its implications for health systems, disease prevention and pandemic preparedness, and intersectoral actions to redress health inequities.  

GUMC speakers included Alayne Adams, PhD, MSc, and Jennifer Bouey, MBBS, PhD, MPH, from the department of international health at the School of Nursing & Health Studies; Rebecca Katz, PhD, MPH, director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security; and Jessica Kirtz, JD, with the Institute for Reproductive Health.

Karen Teber
GUMC Communications