A delegation from the University of Nigeria (UNN) has just completed a week in key laboratories and boardrooms at the University of Maryland's Baltimore campus exploring educational exchanges between the two universities. The visit has sparked "many positive possibilities that far exceeded our expectations," says Rich Umeh, MRCOphth, MSC, an ophthalmology professor at UNN.
Marjorie Forster, University of Maryland (UM) assistant vice president for research and global health initiatives, agrees. "The week was a huge success and, yes, UM was able to meet and/or exceed the University of Nigeria's expectations," Forster says. "We have established a firm foundation for mutual collaborations and partnerships particularly in the area of training for both UNN faculty and students."
Topics for training and education exchanges will include HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, dentistry, pharmacy, biostatistics, research ethics, and genomics, according to Forster and Umeh.
"A lot of good things are going to come," says Umeh. "We were not expecting to get so much attention by so many interesting people. We have actually been surprised by the warmth, the huge welcome we've had.
"The kind of relationships between the faculties here presents opportunities that are amazing. And the willingness to share their knowledge is something that has impressed us," says Umeh (pictured with UM President Jay A. Perman, MD).
Leaders from the two universities also identified several areas of research collaboration and training. They agreed to review the week's activities and meet with other university leaders to develop and prioritize the next steps, probably leading to a visit to UNN in the fall by a delegation from UM.
Of particular interest to the Nigerian professors was HIV/AIDS clinical and epidemiologic research and education. They met with Robert Redfield, MD, head of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the School of Medicine's Institute of Human Virology (IHV). "He was very enthusiastic about the University of Nigeria," says Umeh. "I think we would like to start planning a workshop in Nigeria. From the workshop we are going to go for a master's program and will plan to have a four-year resident program."
The UNN delegation also met with William Blattner, MD, director of the IHV Epidemiology and Prevention Division, about creating the West African Research Institute, a consortium of universities.
Jane Shaab, University of Maryland assistant vice president for economic development, presented the Nigerians with a business formula for bringing companies to the University of Maryland BioPark and for co-developing technology. Umeh responded by naming several UNN technologies that are ready for commercialization. She says many other inventions that "are still on the shelf" include treatments for asthma, diabetes, and sickle cell anemia, an anti-snakebite venom, and a cholera vaccine.
Shaab says the fast-growing BioPark offers incoming companies networking opportunities with UM-"a vibrant research university with more than $600 million in sponsored research."
"What we sell every day," Shaab adds, "is not the great space and labs, or the real estate, but we sell the excellence of the University and, most importantly, the excellence of the faculty and our research investigators."
Other priorities for collaboration emerging from the Nigerians' visit include:
* Research ethics training
* Pharmacy faculty exchange and training
* Dentistry student exchange programs
* A certificate program in biostatistics and work toward master's and PhD programs in biostatistics
* A visit to the UNN by faculty from the UM Institute for Genome Sciences