November 11, 2014
More than 200 students traveled from Brazil, Nepal, China, and many other countries to gather at Duke University for the 2014 Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) conference organized by the Duke undergraduate chapter of UAEM. Throughout the two-day conference, students in fields ranging from economics to public health to law discussed the many issues related to securing access to medicine by all people, regardless of their location in the world.
Anthony So, DGHI faculty member and director of Duke’s Program on Global Health and Technology Access, opened the conference, urging students to hold universities accountable for their influence on the pharmaceutical supply chain and to be strategic in how the knowledge their research generates becomes translated into affordable treatments to those in need.
“Access to medicine is a fundamental cornerstone to policy work in global health,” said So. “UAEM has served as a powerful voice in ensuring how research discoveries in university labs become translated into affordable products available to those in need. It was inspiring to see students from all over coming together to pave the way forward for tackling these issues.”
He also highlighted the work of Josh Sommer, a Duke undergraduate student who went on to establish the Chordoma Foundation, and by age 24, became on of Forbes 30 under 30 for his breakthrough efforts to catalzye how drugs are brought to market for neglected and rare diseases.
Beyond the numerous panel discussions and breakout sessions, Anand Grover, Former UN Special Rapporteur and Director and Co-founder of Lawyers Collective, and Marine Buizzonière, Director of Open Society Public Health Program, further encouraged students to hold key players accountable for their actions and apply pressure on the United States government, as the U.S. is in a unique position to stimulate change. Members of leading non-governmental organizations such as Jamie Love, Director of Knowledge Ecology International, Peter Maybarduk, Director of Public Citizen, and Kimberely Bonner, Research Associate with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Access Campaign engaged the students throughout the weekend and instigated in-depth conversations about the role that NGO’s play on the pharmaceutical supply chain.
Since UAEM was established by a group of Yale University law students and Mèdecins Sans Frontières in 2001, it has expanded into a worldwide student organization representing over 40 universities and 18 countries. The organization believes that universities and publicly funded research institutions can be part of the solution to the problem of access; the collaboration of UAEM students and other organizations not only creates awareness of these issues but also pushes for change at the policy level, which directly impacts the priorities of policy-making entities.
Throughout their international efforts, UAEM aims to promote access to medicines and medical innovations in low- and middle-income countries, ensure that university medical research meets the needs of people worldwide, and empower students to respond to the access and innovation crisis. To learn more about UAEM’s current proposals and how you can get involved, visit their website today.