TitleSocial Responsibility, International Development, and Institutional Commitment: Lessons from the Boston University Experience
AuthorsBabich L. P., Bicknell W. J., Culpepper L., Jack B. W.
PublicationAcad Med. 2008 Feb; 83(2):143-7.
AbstractBoston University (BU) has a long history of a strong social mission and commitment to service. In August 2003, BU made an institutional commitment to work with the country of Lesotho to tackle the human capital implications of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Surrounded by South Africa, and with a population of two million, Lesotho, a stable democracy, suffers the world's third-highest adult HIV prevalence rate of about 24%. The initiation of the program required a substantial initial institutional investment without any promise of payback. This allowed BU to begin work in Lesotho while searching for additional funds. The government of Lesotho and BU agreed to focus on preserving the lives of Lesotho's citizens, building the capacity of the country's workforce, and maximizing the efficiency of Lesotho's existing systems and resources. Initial activities were modest, beginning with workshops on problem solving, then the launch of a primary care clinic that offered HIV/AIDS treatment services at the nation's only teacher training college. With support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the main focus is now on strengthening district-level primary care services, including the initiation of a family medicine residency training program in cooperation with the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein. The initial commitment has developed into a mutual partnership, with benefits to country and university alike. By combining the expertise from various schools and departments to focus on a single country, a university can significantly advance international development, strengthen its service mission, enrich teaching, and provide new opportunities for research.