Advancing health communication research, education, and practice across health professions in Greece and the U.S. is the core objective of the faculty representing Rutgers University (Rutgers-New Brunswick and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences) as a new member of the International Academic Partnerships Program – Greece.
Designed to promote international collaboration between U.S. and Greek institutions of higher education, the IAPP-Greece is an academic incubator program sponsored in 2020 by the Greek Ministry of Education, the U.S. Department of Education, the Institute of International Education, and the Fulbright Foundation, among other organizations.
By contributing to IAPP-Greece, Matthew Matsaganis, associate professor of communication at SC&I, said Rutgers envisions a partnership with Greek institutions of higher education that will advance health communication research, education, and practice in both the U.S. and Greece, and across the health professions, including physician assistants, dietitians and nutritionists, physical and occupational therapists, rehabilitation counselors, speech and language pathologists, laboratory sciences professionals, physicians, dentists, and nurses, and other roles in the health field.
Matsaganis also said Rutgers research in support of IAPP-Greece’s mission will address two larger issues that are currently of interest to universities, foundations, governments, nonprofits, and private sector actors: the advancement of global health education, research, and practice and the future of work, in general and specifically in the health sector.
“Simultaneously,” Matsaganis said, “We hope our efforts will inform best practices for the development of international educational programs, distant learning, and technology-enhanced courses and programs designed to address the needs of an increasingly diverse and mobile student population.”
“Rutgers and our two schools—SC&I and SHP—specifically are extremely well-positioned to pursue our IAPP-Greece initiative’s goals: Rutgers is today one of the largest academic institutions in the U.S. providing healthcare education, research, but also clinical care. There is also amazing talent and capacity across both SC&I and SHP that we can leverage to develop meaningful and productive relationships with universities in Greece; partnerships, that is, that will benefit our Rutgers communities and our Greek partners equally. As of 2020, SC&I has one of the largest faculty with health communication expertise in the country, while SHP is the nation’s largest health professions school in the U.S. Moreover, we have considerable know-how in developing and nurturing international collaborations on our campuses. Working closely with Rutgers Global will help us tap into these resources, but also contribute to them.
“We envision a future in which Rutgers faculty and students will be conducting cutting-edge research with some of Greece’s top experts in Communication and in the Health Professions, and pursuing grants together in the European Union, Greece, and the United States that will support their collective work in Europe and the U.S. Additionally, we hope that with our Greek partners we will be able to advance the field of health communication in Greece, where it is underdeveloped, and the U.S. This could be accomplished through several pathways, including comparative research and educational programs tailored to the needs of the next generation of health and health communication professionals who will need to have global awareness and experience. Furthermore, through this initiative, we trust that we will fuel synergy between Rutgers units not only abroad but also here in New Jersey, starting of course with our academic ‘homes’: SC&I and SHP.”
SHP’s Associate Dean of Global Affairs Riva Touger-Decker, Ph.D., said, “SHP’s health professions programs are among the best in the U.S. Its in-person, online and hybrid programs enroll over 1700 students from 41 states in the U.S and 15 countries. Combining the strengths of SHP with SC&I in regards to education, clinical training and international efforts, the potential exists to forage strong academic, research, and service partnerships. The program will leverage the strengths of Rutgers and our Greek partners. The combined talents of the finest in health communication and health professions training has incredible potential to build forward-thinking virtual education and training programs to prepare future generations of interprofessional academicians, clinicians, and researchers who can continue to train communications and health professions students and practitioners.
“Through this partnership, we will be able to identify best practices for the development of new educational programs leading to degrees that will better serve the next generations of health professionals (including health communication professionals) practicing in Greece and the U.S. Health professions programs are becoming increasingly global in focus for education, research, and service; working together with Greek institutions will permit the development of mutually beneficial programs and initiatives. The program in Greece has the potential to be a model for expansion in the E.U.
“Likewise, global research is increasingly feasible with advancing technology and virtual spaces. Further leveraging our mutual research strengths from Rutgers SHP and SC&I with those of our Greek partners will expand opportunities for researchers now and in the future.”
The Rutgers group is currently collaborating with five universities in Greece. Two are located in Athens, one is on the island of Crete, in Southern Greece, one is in Thessaloniki, the second largest city of the country in the north, and one is in the region of Thrace, in Northeastern Greece.
SC&I, SHP, and Rutgers Global will participate in IAPP-Greece through a broad array of activities.
The first activities Rutgers will host to launch the collaboration will be two e-symposia. SC&I and SHP will co-host the first of these two events with the Hellenic Mediterranean University (HMU) and the second one with Harokopio University of Athens (HUA).
The first e-symposium will focus on “Combating Discrimination in Healthcare and Fighting Health Disparities in Greece and the U.S.” It will be held on Thursday, May 27, and will feature research presentations by faculty from SC&I and SHP, and also HMU’s Departments of Nursing, Nutrition, and Social Work.
The second e-symposium on the topic of “Employing Technology to Improve Health Assessment, Health Communication, & Healthcare Delivery: Research from Greece and the U.S” is planned for June 10.