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New Documentary Explores “Compassion in Global Health”

Author: Notre Dame News

“Compassion in Global Health”

University of Notre Dame faculty and students joined colleagues at an inaugural symposium on Compassion in Global Health during the annual meeting of American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTHM) this week in Philadelphia. The symposium featured a distinguished panel of experienced global health professionals, some of whom celebrated Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., Notre Dame president emeritus; and the late UNICEF President Jim Grant as among visionaries who have recognized the importance of linking compassion with global health and development.

The symposium featured the premiere of Compassion in Global Health, a new documentary by award-winning British filmmaker Richard Stanley. Highlighting the experiences of notable participants as shared in a unique meeting conducted last year at the Carter Center in Atlanta, the film includes perspectives from President Jimmy Carter, global health champion Paul Farmer, smallpox eradication hero Bill Forge, Earth Institute founder Jeffrey Sachs, former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, and Notre Dame theology professor Lawrence Sullivan, as well as other physicians, experts and patients from around the globe.

The symposium and a newly developed curriculum with an accompanying DVD were the brain child of David Addiss, now with the Task Force for Global Health. Addiss, a longtime collaborator in Notre Dame’s public health research work with the Haitian government, notes that “Although compassion is a core value and a fundamental source of inspiration and motivation for those working in the field, this is rarely acknowledged or discussed in global health organizations, training programs, or conferences.

“Consequently,” Addiss continues in his review of the film, “the potential of compassion in global health is limited.”

The training materials address the role and impact of compassion in global health, and are destined for use in many settings around the globe, from universities to village clinics: “The film and study guide are offered in the belief that re-discovery of compassion can reinvigorate global health, provide a sense of meaning and connection for those who work in this field, and empower them to connect more deeply, at an intellectual and emotional level, with those they seek to serve,” Addiss says.

Smallpox eradication hero Bill Forge at podium

The film was developed by the Fetzer Institute of Kalamazoo, currently led by Sullivan, who is on leave from Notre Dame.

Along with colleagues at the Atlanta-based Task Force and the Templeton Foundation, a wide range of Notre Dame units are supporting the effort: Office of the President, Office of the Vice-President for Research, Center for Rare and Neglected Diseases, Eck Institute for Global Health, Hillebrand Center for Compassionate Care, Kellogg Institute for International Studies, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, and the Haiti Program.

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