Ruhul Abid, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor in the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery and Cardiovascular Research Center
GHI Spotlight Interview
How did you first get interested in global health?
Before starting my career as a researcher in cardiovascular disease, I worked in the tea producing northeastern region of Bangladesh as a physician immediately after graduating from medical school . During my work there, I helped develop and implement a community-based health care delivery system for the plantation workers and their family members. It was one of the first global health projects in Bangladesh which introduced the concept of Family Health Card and Community-based Health Workers (CHWs), who were selected from within the community. CHWs were trained to measure blood pressure, blood glucose, urine albumin, and deliver pre- and post-natal care including vaccination under WHO’s EPI (Extended Program of Immunization) for children. CHWs also delivered health and hygiene education, mass deworming, and helped follow up the patients with tuberculosis and leprosy in the community. During my tenure as a faculty at Harvard Medical School, I continued working on global health issues in the developing countries with other faculty members with similar passion. I also helped international organizations (e.g. ClickDiagnostics, DNet) develop mobile phone -based (m-Health) ante and post-natal care delivery and tagging system for the high-risk pregnancy cases in Bangladesh.
How did you become involved with your project?
One year after I joined Brown University Alpert Medical School, the tragic event of garment factory (Rana Plaza) collapse happened in Dhaka, Bangladesh in April 2013, which killed 1,129 people and injured several hundreds. I mobilized a health care team that included physicians and students from the USA to go to Dhaka. We also recruited local physicians and paramedics in Dhaka and provided free-of-cost health care to the workers of different garment factories. We provided ante- and post-natal care to the pregnant workers and treatment to the patients with hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and high-risk pregnancy. During our trip to Dhaka, we also collaborated with internationally esteemed global health organization BRAC Health to provide treatment for tuberculosis for the garment workers. We have an ongoing collaboration with BRAC Health, Bangladesh for their m-Health program in Dhaka. Last summer, a PLME student from Brown University went to work on an m-Health project at the BRAC Center in Dhaka under Brown University’s Global Health Initiative program.
What is most difficult about your global health work? Most rewarding?
The most rewarding part of my global health work is to see empowerment of the underprivileged through health education and proper health care delivery. Also, the promise of m-Health that will bring advanced health care to their doorsteps is also very exciting. Most difficult is the slow pace of the work as it requires changes in social behavior and norms of the end users. However, I know from my previous experience that significant improvement can be brought about through global health interventions.
How does your global health work fit in with your career plans?
I work in the field of cardiovascular medicine and research. Although for long cardiovascular disease (CVD) including hypertension was thought to be a problem of the western world, several recent studies showed that CVD is rapidly becoming a major problem in the developing world too. CVD falls under the NCD (non-communicable disease) category of global health and is a major focus for the United Nation’s Post-MDG (Millennium Development Goals) Post-2015 Development Agenda. Thus my major research focus on cardiovascular disease is in line with my global health interest. In addition to my academic and research work in cardiovascular disease, my passion for mentoring allows me to interact with many undergraduate students, graduate medical students, and medical residents at Brown. I enjoy mentoring and believe that students and physicians, in addition to their clinical and academic work, should have global health experience during their training period as many of the future jobs will be global in nature. As part of my international collaboration, a PLME student from Brown University went to study mHealth-based health care delivery system in urban slum at the BRAC Health Center in Dhaka in summer 2014. A scholarship from the Global Health Initiative at Brown was instrumental for this unique opportunity for the student. Another student will go to study m-Health-based intervention for NCD (e.g. hypertension and its complications) next year.
What has your experience been with global health at Brown (Framework, GHI, etc.)?
I have worked at several academic institutions as a researcher with a passion for global health and interacted with several different international organizations working on global health. I find Global Health Initiative at Brown under the leadership of Prof. Susan Cu-Uvin is an efficient mechanism to promote Brown University’s agenda at the international level. GHI invited the Director of BRAC Health Prof. Kaosar Afsana to give a lecture and interact with the medical students at Brown in April, 2014. GHI also provided a scholarship to my PLME student, which was instrumental for the research work carried out in Bangladesh in summer 2014. An Abstract of the research work was presented as a poster at the Global Health Research Day at Brown University on April 20, 2015 and was highly appreciated. I look forward to participating in exciting global health projects and to mentor more medical students and residents through the GHI.
Any other thoughts/comments you’d like to add?
I think we should increase international collaboration and participation in exchange programs including seminars, workshops, visiting lectureship and research projects for our students, trainees and faculty members through GHI at Brown. It will help our students and would-be physicians to have a broader knowledge base and global perspective, both of which are critical components for the success of our graduates in the futuristic competitive job market.