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Vol. LX, No. 10
May 16, 2008

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A Commitment to Justice
NLM Exhibit Opening Wows Students

On the front page...

Certain stories tap into our hunger to find meaning in the world and ways to engage with it; certain exhibits unfurl these stories to show how we, too, can get involved. “Against the Odds: Making a Difference in Global Health,” now at the National Library of Medicine, headlines health as a reflection of society’s commitment to equity and justice.

“The exhibit’s mission is to inspire young people to take up careers in global health, and not only as doctors and scientists,” says curator Manon Parry. “The message is that everyone can get involved in the issues they care about.”

The interactive show, which opened to the public on Apr. 17 and runs through 2010, offers a broad perspective that extends, as Parry puts it, “visitors’ understanding of the causes of illness and the communities most at risk—at home as well as around the world.”


On hand at the exhibit opening were (from l) Michael Tees; Jeanne White Ginder; Gyawu Mahama; FIC director Dr. Roger Glass; NLM director Dr. Donald Lindberg; Office of AIDS Research’s Dr. Victoria Cargill; Niko and Theo Milonopoulos; Dr. Jack Geiger; and Tanya Wansom.
Lyngbya bouillonii is among the cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, harvested as a possible source of new drug therapies.

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On hand at the exhibit opening were (from l) Michael Tees; Jeanne White Ginder; Gyawu Mahama; FIC director Dr. Roger Glass; NLM director Dr. Donald Lindberg; Office of AIDS Research’s Dr. Victoria Cargill; Niko and Theo Milonopoulos; Dr. Jack Geiger; and Tanya Wansom.

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Geiger, founding member of Physicians for Human Rights, is also the architect of the community health center network in the United States.

Standing by the portion of the exhibit that reflects his work is NCBI’s Dr. Alejandro Schaffer and his son Daniel.

Photos: Bill Branson

Some folks are surprised to see the exhibit’s inclusion of Hurricane Katrina, she says, although the U.S. is part of global health. Yet “Against the Odds” isn’t just a catalog of problems; it spotlights such successes as the eradication of smallpox, China’s barefoot doctor campaign, Bangladesh’s oral rehydration campaign and the community health center movement. It also profiles the ongoing action against HIV/AIDS.

So if global health is not a world away, but right here in our backyard, then how do we respond? What works and why?

The exhibit profiles some of the people who know the answers. On opening day, four groups of high school students attended a program at Lister Hill Auditorium where they heard NLM director Dr. Donald Lindberg and Fogarty International Center director Dr. Roger Glass talk about today’s challenges. The students watched videos and listened to a panel of speakers who are also featured in the exhibit: Dr. Victoria Cargill, director of clinical studies and director of minority research at the NIH Office of AIDS Research; Dr. Jack Geiger, founding member of Physicians for Human Rights; and Jeanne White Ginder, mother of the late Ryan White, an advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS. Panelists talked about making a difference and encouraged audience members to get involved.
Brad Moss, communication
The panel also featured young activists who spoke about reasons they wanted to do something in the world of global health and the impact they’ve made: Gyawu Mahama, a member of George Washington University’s chapter of the Student Global AIDS Campaign; Niko and Theo Milonopoulos, brothers and students at Stanford University, who founded Kidz Voice-LA and Vox Populi to prevent gun violence; Michael Tees, who co-founded the Tulane University chapter of Student Physicians for Social Responsibility during his first year of medical school; and Tanya Wansom, an American Medical Student Association member who has trained future physicians to educate students about HIV/AIDS.

The audience had questions: “How did you get started?” “Who inspired you?”

“We were angry about something,” said Tees. “We had passion about something.”

“We couldn’t stand by while our classmates were being gunned down,” said Theo Milonopoulos.

“Testing people for HIV in Thailand,” said Wansom, gave her new insight into the epidemic.

“When I was 16,” said Mahama, “my mom gave me the opportunity to go to Ghana, where she’s from,” and where he witnessed “the scourges of public health—stagnant water, malaria, the lack of sanitation that makes cholera such a pugnacious issue in the developing world.”

“Don’t forget the true everyday heroes,” said Wansom, “who speak up when people say things that aren’t cool, things that are racist, sexist or something bad about people with AIDS. People who spoke up for Ryan [White] when he went to school: all of you can do things like that...speak up for other people when they can’t.”

The room was filled with energy by the end of the session, when all adjourned to the ribbon- cutting ceremony in NLM’s atrium. Free to explore the exhibit, young people sought out panelists, NLM senior staff, as well as NLM director Lindberg and FIC director Glass.

The gallery in NLM’s atrium is only one exhibit component; there’s also a web version with interviews, videos, moderated comment boards, teaching modules and monthly guest columns. (April’s columnist was Dr. Paul Farmer, founding director of Partners in Health, an international aid organization.)

This is an exhibit that’s tailor-made to get young people involved.

OAR’s Cargill was in a quiet corner of the exhibit when she was approached by a group of teenage girls who paused, hesitating. Finally one of them broke in.

“Excuse me,” she said, “but you were the most amazing speaker I’ve ever heard.” Then the doctor turned to the teenager and they began to speak.

“Against the Odds: Making a Difference in Global Health” is available online at For tours, inquire at or call (301) 594-1947. NIHRecord Icon

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