By Hamdy Inusah
This week, as a part of our Global Health Leader Seminar Series, we sat down with Dr. Muhammad Zaman, a Howard Hughes Medical Investigator and Guggenheim Fellow who works in assessing drug quality to determine authenticity and therapeutic quality. He spoke about how we can engage in issues of injustice among displaced peoples globally and the role that education and engineering research play in that journey.
In this event recap, we want to share with you a few key topics of discussion from the event.
We also encourage you to watch the full discussion on our YouTube channel.
Dr. Zaman opened the presentation with a brief look into the lives of those who have fled their home countries and the problems they face outside of displacement.
First was the issue of poverty in the newly relocated countries, which places them in host countries that already have persisting issues of equitable resources on top of xenophobia and racism. He also encouraged us to take a step back and look at how we view these dislocated individuals and what predisposed notions or connotations we have surrounding the word “refugee.”
The next topic of the presentation was the concept of trust. Dr. Zaman emphasized the importance of trust from and with all involved parties, in order to better combat the injustices faced by these marginalized groups. Some factors included in building trust between researchers and the community are working closely together throughout the duration of the intervention as well as researchers being okay with not being in the driver’s seat. This might even look like being okay with members of the community refusing intervention from the researchers.
Another issue greatly emphasized by Dr. Zaman was the issue of poor quality medicine.
Medicine is considered poor quality if its manufactured poorly or illegally, or if it is sold in a purposefully misleading way. These drugs get introduced to the community as a way to fill the role of doctors and medical infrastructure that are lost by conflict in countries, and, in fact, 10 to 30% of all drug sales worldwide are considered poor quality. Most of these poor quality drugs are marketed as antibiotics, which can actually aid the virus in building resistance to the proper drug, further exacerbating health issues.
Finally, Dr. Zaman shared how we can begin to engage with these aforementioned issues ethically and effectively at both a local and global scale, with three main areas of focus: exposure, experience, and engagement.
Exposure begins with bringing the conversation to the classroom, and acknowledging that these issues are very much real and happening now.
Experience involves field work in a manner that is as ethical as possible and using immersive learning in a way to get a more hands-on idea of the issues at hand.
Engagement requires going beyond engineering and engaging students of all disciplines into the conversation, since the injustice and inequalities do not fall into just one area of study.
After Dr. Zaman’s presentation, we moved into a live Q&A, which touched on some very important topics including what we can do right now to get involved. We encourage you to watch the full video as well as check out Dr. Zaman’s novel, Biography of Resistance.