Center for Global Health and Medical Diplomacy Caring Community Conference - Update 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Welcoming Remarks


My name is Mark Workman. I am the provost and vice president for academic affairs here at UNF. It is my honor to welcome you to the third Caring Community conference being sponsored by our Center for Global Health and Medical Diplomacy. As provost I want to say that I am especially proud that we house the Center at UNF. The commitment that our university has made is to serve the North Florida region at a level of national quality, and through its leadership activities the Center for Global Health and Medical Diplomacy is certainly making a major contribution towards the fulfillment of UNF’s mission and purpose.


When I had the opportunity to make welcoming remarks at last year’s annual Caring Conference I observed that the function of a center is to exert centripetal force on the entities arrayed around it so that they will no longer exist autonomously but rather will be organized into a meaningful relationship both to their center and to one another. I believe there is already ample evidence that the Center for Global Health and Medical Diplomacy has served that function by providing a nexus for conversations between many of the numerous health care agencies and providers that exist within the North Florida region and beyond. These conversations will clearly be critical if the complex healthcare needs of this diverse region are to be adequately met.


Since last year’s conference two issues have forced themselves to the forefront of our attention and make it readily apparent why, if we did not already have a Center for Global Health and Medical Diplomacy, we would need to create one as expeditiously as possible. The first of these issues is the emergence and spread of the H1N1 virus. What this pandemic reminds us of is the fact that the phrase “global health” is a redundancy. In the 21st century all health is global health, just as all economics are global economics. Nor, given the inextricable relationship between the two, is it a mere coincidence that we refer both to health and economics as global. Arguably it is economic wherewithal that to some degree makes health attainable. Stated otherwise, those of us who are fortunate enough to have the means to sustain ourselves tend to regard health as something of an entitlement. For those less fortunate, the literally life-threatening challenge they confront is not how to sustain health but how to live without it or, in other words, how to avoid mortality.


And that leads to the second issue which points up the relevancy of our Center for Global Health and Medical Diplomacy: the debate currently raging across the country about the provision of health insurance for all citizens whether they can afford it or not. What this debate conflates within itself are deeply contested ideological views on social welfare, the distribution of wealth, ethical responsibility, and medical efficiencies, among others. Given the intensity with which antithetical positions have been argued it is clear that the kind of mutual understanding and collaboration that will be required in order to advance the state of health and healthcare nationally and internationally will require diplomacy of the highest order. 


It is these noblest and most urgent of concerns—with life itself and with the quality of life—that constitute the nucleus of our Center for Global Health and Medical Diplomacy and that enable it to exert such compelling gravitational pull on people who care about the wellbeing of others. That it does so is confirmed by the presence here of so many accomplished and distinguished guests from within and from far beyond our Jacksonville community. I would like to thank you, and our center director Dr. Yank Coble, himself a wonderful embodiment of the values which define our center, for gathering today at UNF to carry out its critical task.