Infectious Diseases Symposium Signals Growing Partnerships Across India

Expanding UMMS collaborations in India are focused on combating infectious diseases, particularly those showing increased resistance to antibiotics.

Members of a UMMS delegation on a recent visit to India to meet with colleauges at the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, including AIMS Medical Superintendent Sanjeev Sinha (right).

A partnership launched two years ago with the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS), in Kochi, culminated in February with the first-ever UMMS-AIMS Symposium on Infectious Diseases and Antimicrobial Stewardship. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has emerged as a global health threat and is a particular challenge in India, where infection rates far outpace those of the US.

“The goal was to create a conference where we bring our insights, they bring their leading doctors and researchers, and we come up with ways to help one another,” said Vineet Chopra, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Research Scientist.

Chopra helped organize the Feb. 3-4 event and led a UMMS delegation that included Senior Associate Dean for Education and Global Initiatives Joseph Kolars, MD; Chair of Internal Medicine John Carethers, MD; Professor of Internal Medicine Laraine Washer, MD, and others.  Representative from the World Health Organization and the National Centers for Disease Control also presented on their respective efforts to combat AMR.

“I think the event itself was an incredible way to publicly announce our growing partnership around scholarship,” Chopra said. “There’s tremendous enthusiasm on both sides and a mutual sense that we can do great things together.”

The conference drew more than 100 leading physicians and researchers from across India, where over prescribing of antibiotics, coupled with a lack of public awareness and an overburdened health infrastructure, have resulted in elevated preventable infection rates at many hospitals. The crude infectious disease mortality rate in India is about 416 per 100,000 – twice that of the United States.

The growing relationship with AIMS follows an already established collaboration with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, in New Delhi, where a few years ago UMMS partners helped establish a new Infectious Diseases fellowship program, the first-ever in India. That program has since admitted 18 fellows. Leaders of that program have traveled to Ann Arbor to learn from UMMS physicians, and Chopra hopes that UMMS Infectious Disease fellows may one day be able to travel to India for rotations.

“The long-term goal has always been bi-lateral exchanges,” he said. “Our fellows will benefit tremendously from spending time in India and gaining experiences with diseases rarely seen here.”

AIMS is looking to model their own Infectious Disease fellowship after the successful program at the All India Institute. Beyond the fellowships, conversations to bring all three institutions – UMMS, All India, and AIMS – together for larger-scale collaborations to tackle AMR and other global health issues are underway.

“I’m proud that the University of Michigan has been the glue to bring these partners together,” Chopra said. “It’s precisely the type of collaborative culture that makes us such a special place for research – and we are now bringing it to a global audience.”