Health Care has global vision


As medicine becomes more global, UI Health Care officials feel they need to compete with major hospitals.

And the UI Health Care International Office will help them do just that.

“We want to stay on the map, so we have to get involved this way,” said Kathleen Barbee, the administrative manager for the international office.

The new office, formed earlier this month, will allow UI Health Care officials to develop relationships with hospitals around the world. Officials said the new center is crucial if the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the UI Carver College of Medicine want to compete with other major medical institutions.

“Medicine is now a global issue, not just a local issue,” said Gordon Williams, the executive director of the international office, noting that such diseases as AIDS, SARS, and avian flu affect everyone, including Iowans.

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Williams, an Iowa City native, is also the chief of operations for UI Health Care. He and Barbee are the only international office employees. Although they have additional responsibilities, neither of them will receive salary increases, Williams said.

UI Health Care International Office officials are speaking with institutions in Lebanon, Brazil, and Thailand. Once a partnership is formed, the UI and UIHC will be able to learn about health care around the world, including different types of hospital training, research, and medical student training.

But Williams said the office isn’t looking to sign contracts with dozens of foreign institutions.
“The goal is to have one or two partnerships and do it really well,” he said, and he doesn’t want the office “to be stretched too thin.”

Officials said they will meet with leaders from Jordan University of Science and Technology next month in Iowa City. Williams said he hopes UI Health Care leaders and officials from the Jordan university can define specific objectives for a partnership, create a timeline, and workout cost issues with leaders during the visit.

Jean Robillard, the UI vice president for Medical Affairs, and UI President Sally Mason plan to host dinners at their homes during the visit.

“It’s a big deal,” Barbee said. “This is a universitywide thing. It’s going to affect the whole family.”

Both Williams and Barbee have backgrounds in establishing global relationships. Prior to working for UI Health Care, both worked at Duke University and created a partnership with a medical university in Singapore. They both credited this experience as a solid foundation for helping UI Health Care expand.

“Universities across the United States are developing relationships in other countries,” Williams said. “It’s going to start happening so you better do it right.”

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