Northwell Health Center for Global Health Founding Director talks about international partnership

The Northwell Health Center for Global Health was founded in July 2019 to build on the international programs and initiatives already under way in New Hyde Park Health in New York City. The Center coordinates programs with partner organizations around the world to improve health care and medical education. Founding Director Dr. Eric Chioe-Peña discusses some of the center’s latest efforts and how its teams are making it happen.

Northwell was already involved in international work long before the establishment of the Center for Global Health. What was the main purpose behind its creation?

The primary goal of the Center for Global Health was to provide structure and organization for Northwell’s global health efforts so that we can provide better services to our partners overseas. When a large system like Northwell wants to develop global programs, it’s important to have a coordinating body or mechanism like the CGH to ensure communication and development across departments.

Since March, the center has been a partner of the telemedicine assistance program for healthcare providers in Ukraine. How did it start, and what kind of work?

The program for Ukraine is something we are very proud of. This was the imperative set by our President and CEO Michael Dowling at the start of the conflict. Discussing the situation with him, it became clear that we are very concerned about the attack by the armed forces of another country on the health infrastructure and medical workers as a weapon of war. We looked at several ways we could get involved and help. The telemedicine program had the biggest potential impact and far exceeded our expectations. So far, we have conducted over 100 consultations for second opinions or difficult cases. This is very useful in terms of what we call “directed charity”. We partner with large organizations that donate equipment to help the medical effort. Members of the Northwell team conduct training on equipment that Ukrainian doctors have never used before. This is one way a healthcare system thousands of miles away can help colleagues affected by the fire in Ukraine by providing some of the training and advice that would normally be available on their own network but is now interrupted by the war.

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Where else do you have current programs?

I think our work in Ecuador and Guyana is interesting. We partner with major educational institutions, every country’s health ministry, and frontline doctors and nurses to try and revolutionize healthcare delivery. One program that certainly deserves attention is the primary health care model that we are working on in both countries. In Ecuador, we have just received approval from the Minister of Health for a mental health revolution in the Quito region with 10 clinics and a base hospital. We are working with the ministry to test the concept of several public health initiatives. Telepsychiatry is one of the most exciting programs. The potential impact could be innovative, and some of the models we are developing could impact mental health care in New York City.

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