Duke University’s Global Health Institute got a big boost in its efforts to train students to fight health threats worldwide – a $20 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The grant includes $10 million for the institute’s endowment – funds invested for growth and ongoing support. Another $10 million is a challenge grant, to help attract and leverage other donations. The total impact could be $30 million for the institute that was launched in 2006 to advance health practice and policy.
The institute has education programs for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as medical residents. About 300 undergraduates at Duke are pursuing a major or minor in global health, according to the university.
The money will be used for student scholarships, faculty support and the institute’s partnerships in areas such as Haiti, Kenya, Tanzania, Sri Lanka and South Africa. The institute also has projects in the United States, including North Carolina’s underserved populations, on health care access, substance abuse, cancer and HIV/AIDS.
Global health has become a larger focus for medical and public health institutions in the United States, and interest only increased with recent epidemics such as Ebola and MERS.
Ebola and MERS have spread speedily. Cancer and diabetes rates are surging in developing nations. Health systems worldwide are straining under the growing burden of disease.
Melinda Gates is an alumna of Duke, where she received an undergraduate degree in 1986 and an MBA in 1987. She is a former trustee at the university and the wife of Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
In 2013, she was the commencement speaker at Duke and told graduates of a foundation trip to the Himalayas, where she sat with a woman in an impoverished village and gazed at the mountains.
“I believe we are finally creating the scientific and technological tools to turn the world into a neighborhood,” she told the graduates. “And that gives you an amazing ethical opportunity no one has ever had before.”
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation targets support to health in developing countries and education in the United States. The foundation has a nearly $43-billion endowment and gave grants of $3.9 billion in 2014, according to its website.