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Two speakers from Weill Cornell Medical College advocate for a biosocial approach to medicine at a lecture Friday.

April 11, 2016

Weill Cornell Speakers Call for Integrated Approach to Global Health

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Issues in global health require integrated solutions that employ both medical and social perspectives, Gunisha Kaur ’06 M.D. ’10 and Prof. Eric Brumberger ’01, anesthesiology, said in a lecture Friday.

Brumberger and Kaur discussed what they called a “biosocial” approach, which they said combines the fields of medicine and the humanities.

The biosocial approach is necessary for understanding the consequences of international health care programs — such as the introduction of ultrasound devices in areas of India where women “are incredibly undervalued” — according to Brumberger.

“Women at all stages of pregnancy will find these illegal ultrasound clinics, get sex determination done and then commit female feticide,” Brumberger said. “It’s incredibly difficult to bring legitimate reasons for ultrasound use into this healthcare system in an easy way.”

Kaur explained the problems involved in introducing ultrasound to India using economics.

“These things come down to economic factors — the economic productivity or ability of women to contribute economically to the family unit,” Kaur said. “That becomes a problem in a society where women cannot contribute because it’s an agricultural society.”

The effects of introducing medical technology into a culture are often unclear to those outside of the society, according to Kaur.

“Medical technology that’s supposed to be really good for health and improve health outcomes can actually be really detrimental to society if you don’t know the cultural context,” she said. “Just looking at it on the surface, you wouldn’t think that the ability to farm would have such an impact on health.”

Brumberger and Kaur both cited their undergraduate experiences as crucial to their inspiration in beginning the lecture series — which is a collaboration between Weill Cornell faculty and Cornell undergraduates.

“It’s really interesting to be able to teach people at the beginning of their career, where theyre just starting to think about medicine,” Kaur said. “We together came up with the idea about a year ago, partially because we both graduated from Cornell, that it would be great to come back and teach students.”

Brumberger added that he hopes students will use the lecture series to learn about the different ways they can work in global health.

“[Students are] all pretty pluripotent at this point,” Brumberger said. “We want them to realize that it’s all out there for them, and there are limitless possibilities.”

The talk was the second in a new course — “Global Health Case Studies from Weill Cornell Medical College” — that focuses on integrated approaches to global health.