Global Health Office facilitates pediatric partnerships

Tamara Vineberg - 30 January 2020

Dominic Allain has developed partnerships in his role as director in the Global Health office.


If you are in pediatrics and interested in global health, the opportunities are endless. You could take part in medical relief work, conduct research or teach at a partner institution or health facility in a developing country, or work with immigrant and refugee populations in Edmonton.

Dominic Allain became passionate about global health before he began medical school. He was volunteering in Guatemala and realized he wanted to return as a physician to help this population. Now as the director of the Global Health Office in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, he shares his passion with faculty and learners. “The Department of Pediatrics specifically has been very interested and active in global health for many years. Strong partnerships with institutions in various parts of the world have been developed in recent years and are coordinated through the Global Health Office,” says Allain, who is also an associate clinical professor in the Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine.

The Global Health Office has partnerships with institutions in Ghana, Uganda, Nepal, Ethiopia, Kenya, China and in the Philippines. The partnership with Uganda is particularly strong and has different facets. Allain is collaborating with Michael Hawkes, associate professor in the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, to provide opportunities for medical students and residents to volunteer in the Ugandan cities of Jinja, Mbarara and in the capital city of Kampala. Faculty are also contributing to the partnership by providing their Ugandan colleagues and learners with teaching opportunities and examination support. One of the important goals for these partnerships is to make them as bilateral as possible and beneficial to all involved. For example, the Global Health Office recently hosted two Ugandan visiting faculty members and is currently in the process of planning an elective for a Ugandan physician who wants to pursue two months of training in Edmonton.

The impact of visiting faculty and residents lasts longer when there is an ongoing project and when partners are able to share some of their knowledge and skills, along with the challenges they may be facing in their home institutions. “I think the impact of these partnerships is greater when there is an ongoing relationship and you can identify each other’s needs as well as each partner’s strengths,” says Allain.

One of the biggest impacts is supporting research and education. Often the global partners in collaborating sites have the interest and expertise in research but don’t have the funds. Allain sees support for these research projects as a way of giving back to the partnership. He also believes the research teaches all involved. “If you’re studying meningitis in certain parts of the United Kingdom, for example, the bugs might be a little bit different from the bugs here. But there’s still some overlap on the meningitis effect,” he adds.

Allain is often asked how a career as a pediatrician and an interest in global health can be combined. He stresses that opportunities can be found at home as well as overseas. Edmonton’s immigrant and refugee populations need services and health education. Working with this population requires a global mindset as language, culture and values need to be considered. Physicians and residents can also become involved on a local level through the Canadian Paediatric Society through the global child and youth health section. In addition, they can attend the Global Health Rounds organized by the Global Health office every two weeks.

The Global Health office hosts other events, including two annual events. The Global Health Fair was held on February 3. Tickets are available for the Rich Man, Poor Man Dinner fundraiser, taking place on April 4. One person in eight will be randomly chosen to have the "Rich Man" dinner of prime rib and several side dishes. The other guests will receive the "Poor Man" dinner of a modest portion of a vegetarian meal much like the typical meals eaten by 90 percent of the world population. This year the Poor Man dinner will consist of delicious perogies. Pediatric surgeon Abdullah Saleh will be the keynote speaker.