Ecuador outreach yields impressive preliminary research collaboration outcomes

Opting for an outreach visit to the second highest capital in the world rather than beach time during the 2017 Spring Break, a delegation of faculty from the School of Public Health-Bloomington and the Office of the Vice President for International Affairs travelled to Quito, Ecuador, to meet with representatives from the University of San Francisco de Quito, a small, private university in the Ecuadorian capital.

San Francisco de Quito LogoHigh in the Andes Mountains, Quito offers an opportunity to not only meet with colleagues but to visit an environment with unique yet similar public health issues to those we face in the United States, and particularly in Indiana.

“Given the similar research focus on health issues related to diet, exercise, and infectious diseases, partnering with the University of San Francisco de Quito provides IU School of Public Health-Bloomington faculty interested in conducting inter-disciplinary, international collaborative research a unique opportunity,” noted Dr. Justin Otten, Director of Global Health Affairs at the School of Public Health-Bloomington.

Joining Dr. Otten on the outreach trip were Dr. Rodrigo X. Armijos, Associate Professor of Environmental Health and Dr. Ka He, Professor and Chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and Dr. Erik Nelson, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the IU School of Public Health as well as Rita Koryan, Assistant Vice President of International Affairs at Indiana University.

Thanks to the robust academic reputation of the University of San Francisco de Quito, interest in such a collaborative relationship was sparked in 2016 through a visit by Indiana University President Michael McRobbie to the university. Indeed, with a college of health sciences hosting a school of public health, medical school, university hospital, as well as numerous laboratories, the University of San Francisco de Quito is a research powerhouse. Faculty are predominantly U.S. educated and conduct public health research in all parts of Ecuador including the Amazonian, Andean, and Pacific coastal regions.

As a follow-up to President McRobbie’s visit, the goals of this visit were to more concretely facilitate faculty research collaboration, enhance opportunities for faculty and student mobility, conduct student recruitment, and to take steps to develop an official partnership agreement.

IU delegates met with over a dozen University of San Francisco de Quito faculty members which yielded some impressive initial outcomes related to specific research collaborations, including:

• Commencement of Dr. He’s research collaboration related to longevity in Ecuador’s southern “blue zone” which will be used in an upcoming NIH grant application.

• Dr. Armijos’ receipt of support from the University of San Francisco de Quito Hospital de los Valles for an upcoming NIH grant application on indoor air pollution.

• Dr. Nelson’s collaboration with GIS and public health faculty at the University of San Francisco de Quito, with whom he will work on research related to nutrition and metabolic syndromes, sexually transmitted infections, and GIS mapping.

• An agreement for the University of San Francisco de Quito to host Dr. Armijos’ 2018 summer study tour in Ecuador.

Despite these initial impressive results from just one visit, there are additional research collaboration opportunities for IU School of Public Health-Bloomington researchers interested in maternal and sexual health, infectious diseases, vector borne disease, high altitude training, and recreation, parks, and tourism management.

For further information about the trip and opportunities with the University of San Francisco de Quito, please contact Director of Global Health Affairs, Justin Otten.