A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Relief and Research


Brown initiative aims to help bridge humanitarian and academic efforts.

From the horror of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia to the urban slums of Bangladesh, where annual springtime rains bring cholera and dehydration to thousands of children, Adam Levine, MD, MPH, has worked to foster collaboration between two well-meaning fields that are nevertheless often culturally at odds: relief and research. A medical veteran of those crises and others, Levine believes that academic rigor and perspective can make humanitarian work more effective and evidence based, and that aiding disaster relief can engage academia directly in saving many thousands of imperiled lives.

Now, through the Humanitarian Innovation Initiative (HI2) that Levine has founded at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, he hopes to greatly expand the opportunities for students to learn, researchers to study, and humanitarians to heal together.

“Getting these two very different cultures to work together is not going to happen naturally, but it can still happen with some dedicated work and advanced planning,” says Levine, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Alpert Medical School and a physician at Rhode Island Hospital. “That’s a big part of what HI2 is really supposed to be about—bringing together academics from Brown University and elsewhere with humanitarian practitioners in the field to develop projects that can improve care in future emergencies.”

With two years of seed funding from Watson, the initiative has launched with six affiliated faculty members and a full-time program coordinator. The initiative will include several programs such as fellowships to support academic and humanitarian practitioners around the world and a spring speaker series on campus. The initiative also includes several classes, such as “Human Security and Humanitarian Response: Increasing Effectiveness and Accountability,” which Levine taught for the first time last spring.

Levine has also published several research papers this year that both explain the difficulty and exemplify the value of conducting research during relief missions.

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