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Listen to an audio interview with Michael Merson at http://realmedia.oit.duke.edu/ramgen/news/merson.rm (RealPlayer required).

DURHAM, N.C. -- Michael H. Merson, M.D., an internationally recognized expert in the study of HIV/AIDS, has been named director of the newly created Global Health Institute at Duke University, President Richard H. Brodhead announced Wednesday.

Brodhead said the new institute will promote interdisciplinary education, research and delivery of care to address health gaps between the poor and the affluent. The institute will incorporate every field on campus: environment, medicine, law, nursing, engineering, business, natural and social sciences, and divinity.

"The Global Health Institute exemplifies the kind of cross-field collaboration that's rare elsewhere but relatively common here," Brodhead said. "I am extremely pleased that Dr. Merson will lead this visionary new program to address health disparities in Durham and around the world."

Victor J. Dzau, M.D., chancellor for health affairs and president and CEO of the Duke University Health System, added, "Global health has a far-reaching impact in almost every academic discipline. We must address issues of global health in under-resourced communities and nations. We see this not only as a moral imperative but also as a key to global stability."

Merson, the Anna M.R. Lauder Professor of Public Health at Yale University, said he was impressed by Duke's rich tradition of interdisciplinary research. "It's an honor and a privilege to join colleagues so committed to local, regional and global health problems. Interdisciplinary collaboration is crucial to solving global health problems," he said. "I think the Global Health Institute can really make a difference in thousands, even millions of lives."

From 1978 until 1995, Merson worked for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland. Merson was director of the Diarrheal Diseases Control Program for 10 years and then served as director of the Acute Respiratory Infections Control Program from 1987 to 1990. From 1990 to 1995, he headed the worldwide effort to control the AIDS epidemic as director of the WHO's Global Program on AIDS.

In 1995, Merson joined the Yale School of Medicine as dean of Public Health. He currently is director and principal investigator of Yale's Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS, which undertakes research, training and evaluation projects in some 20 countries.

Merson has authored more than 175 articles and is senior editor of International Public Health, the first textbook prepared on the subject. More recently, he has written on global AIDS policy issues, his current major area of interest.

Barton Haynes, M.D., Duke professor of medicine and director of the Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology, said Merson would play a critical role in AIDS research efforts. "Our inability to control the global AIDS epidemic and the lack of an AIDS vaccine have become enormous global health problems," Haynes said. In the past 13 months, Duke researchers have received more than $350 million for HIV/AIDS research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Merson has served on various NIH review panels and advisory committees, is a consultant to the World Bank for its HIV/AIDS projects in various countries, and has received the Surgeon General's Exemplary Service Medal and the Arthur S. Flemming Award for distinguished government service. He has been elected to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of The National Academies and served as a member of the IOM's Board on Global Health.

Merson earned his bachelor of arts degree at Amherst College and his medical degree at the State University of New York Health Science Center in Brooklyn. After completing his internship and residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital, he supervised the medical ward aboard the hospital ship USS Hope in northeast Brazil. He then spent three years working for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he was promoted to chief medical epidemiologist at the Cholera Research Laboratory in Bangladesh.

Merson was selected after an extensive international search, said Provost Peter Lange, the university's chief academic officer. "I am delighted to have the search committee recruit someone of Dr. Merson's stature to lead the Global Health Institute," Lange said. "As a nationally recognized global health expert who has spent his career at some of the world's top health organizations, Dr. Merson brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to Duke."

The university-wide steering committee that planned the institute's framework was led by Haynes and Robert Cook-Deegan, M.D., director of the Center for Genome Ethics, Law & Policy at the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy.