Dr. Dawd Siraj speaks on collaborations between UW-Madison and Jimma University (Ethiopia)

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has a long history of international collaboration and exchange. The university teaches over eighty different languages, offers hundreds of thriving study abroad programs offered to undergraduate students, and is the largest provider of Peace Corps Volunteers. Professors and graduate students from a diversity of disciplines at the university have engaged in ground-breaking research overseas, expanding ever-further the boundaries of the Wisconsin Idea and forging personal and professional networks which will long outlast their tenure.

Next Wednesday, September 18, the African Studies Program would like to invite you to join us in celebrating one of these incredible connections. At Africa at Noon that day, we will welcome from Jimma University (Ethiopia) Dr. Jemal Abafita, University President; Kora Tushune, Vice President for Business and Development; Dr. Mohammed Abafogi, Executive Director of the JU Institute of Health; and Dr. Esayas Gudina, Chief Clinical and Academic Director of the Jimma Medical Center. In their presentation, titled “Jimma University (Ethiopia): An Introduction and Opportunities for Collaboration,” each of these officials will discuss the expanding cooperation between Jimma University and UW-Madison, and specifically those in the medical field.

To better understand how these connections came about we spoke to Dr. Dawd Siraj, Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at UW-Madison and a central organizer of UW-Madison’s academic engagement with Jimma University. Siraj has extensive experience and training in the global heath field, and over the course of his career developed a passion and expertise for incorporating global health programming into clinical practice and training. He brought these lessons with him to UW Health in 2016, regularly traveling abroad with medical students and residents and seeking opportunities to build networks with both academic and non-academic communities outside of Madison.

“We can’t just stay in our part of the world,” he argued, “We are only a small part of the population, and our research needs to go beyond our limited horizon. There are many lessons that we will only be able to learn in different places.”

Siraj is a native of Ethiopia, attending medical school at Jimma University before completing his residency and Master of Public Health program in the United States, and has collaborated with scholars from his alma mater for the past five years. Groups on both sides have already invested years of hard work and extensive funding to collaborate on educational programs, on international rotation for clinical experience, and on global health research, to the benefit and excitement of all parties involved.

Still, the collaboration with Jimma University is just the starting point, a door that will open onto a new world of possibilities for not just the UW-Madison Global Health Institute but for the entire university. Siraj hopes to lead by example, pushing forward with fresh networks and ideas in order to enable others on campus – other professors, other graduate students, other departments – to follow suit. There are ever-expanding numbers of grants and research opportunities catering to these kinds of efforts, he noted, and he hopes that broader knowledge of the continued, sustained collaborations that already exist between UW-Madison and universities abroad will encourage others to take advantage of these new developments.

“Anyone can translate and broaden their research to a global perspective,” he said, “Anything can be looked at from an international standpoint, and I think this process actually makes your practice more broadly useable. Everyone on campus needs to start thinking this way, whatever department or field they may be in.”

For more information on collaborations with Jimma University and the upcoming delegation visit, please contact Abigail Mapes.

Written by Rebecca Hanks