You may not think faculty from OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences and Debre Berhan University in Ethiopia have much in common. On the contrary, they share something they both hold dear – a passion and commitment to better the health of their communities.
Although the issues are much different in Ethiopia, including maternal and child health issues, infectious diseases and HIV, at the end of the day both groups work toward creating implementable research-based solutions that help their respective communities live healthier and happier lives.
CPHHS Assistant Professor Stephanie Grutzmacher recently hosted a delegation of four from Debre Berhan University. The group consisted of Getachew Tefera, president; Teferi Adnew, research and community service vice president; Sodere Nurgi, director of medicine and health science institute; and Tsigemariam Bashe, dean of College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Among the areas the delegation wanted to explore with OSU faculty and staff were building administrative infrastructure for research, service and academic programs; program planning and evaluation; development of graduate programs and research initiatives; and building capacity for community engagement. The group was busy during its two days at OSU. Meetings, meals, course observations, off-campus site visits and personal visits with key leadership and students filled their agenda.
“Our experience visiting OSU was multidimensional,” Teferi says. “We were exposed to OSU’s strategies and systems to address our shared missions of teaching and learning, research and community services. We were very impressed with OSU’s approach to outreach, which engages professionals on campus and in the community and utilizes volunteers to expand reach with limited resources.”
Stephanie says that Debre Berhan’s priorities align with OSU’s land grant mission. Debre Berhan University is actively working at conducting scholarship and teaching that aims at real-world practice and translating research into practice. Both universities share a mission to serve their community and state and the broader public interest.
Debre Berhan University has hosted Stephanie on several occasions. Her most recent trip was with University of Maryland’s Public Health Without Borders program earlier this year. The delegation’s trip to the United States (which also included a visit to University of Maryland and Morgan State University in Baltimore) was significant because it forged a solid foundation for international collaboration.
“It is much easier for someone from the United States to be hosted abroad to deliver workshops, classes, lectures and work on projects,” Stephanie says. “Hosting Debre Berhan demonstrated OSU’s commitment for partnership. I think it’s a real sign of commitment to collaboration.”
When she travels to Ethiopia, Stephanie is actively engaged with conducting research and giving training and workshops. Her next trip is slated for September, and she will be leading a capacity building workshop in the area of community engagement and planning. She hopes to be able to bring a couple of graduate students along on the trip in order to create a joint experience.
“I want to help the community respond to their own challenges, interests and concerns,” Stephanie says. “For example, having a school gardening project where the students, parents, teachers and school staff have the capacity to design and deliver their own program is important.”
As Stephanie continues to bring her research and passion for helping communities create solutions for their people, a productive and collaborative relationship spanning 8,532 miles continues. The end goal is simply advancing public health for all.