Friday, September 29, 2023
Nada Melhem with Russ Ganim, Rima Afifi, and Claudia Corwin
From left to right: Rima Afifi, Nada Melhem, Russ Ganim, and Claudia Corwin

Dr. Nada M. Melhem opened the eyes of Iowa City residents to the public health challenges impacting her home country of Lebanon during a lecture on cholera on Sept. 13. Dr. Melhem is a professor of infectious diseases and microbiology in the Division of Health Professions, Medical Laboratory Sciences, at the American University of Beirut (AUB) in Beirut, Lebanon. 

Dr. Melhem’s lecture, titled “Cholera in Lebanon: An Old Disease with a New Comeback,” hosted by the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council (ICFRC) at the Iowa City Public Library brought Iowa City community members together to learn more about cholera as well as a new global health collaboration. 

During the lecture, Dr. Melhem went into depth on the evolution of the cholera spread in Lebanon since the reporting of the first case as well as the recent structural challenges leading to the spread of the disease. 

Event attendee Lexi Passno, an ethics and public policy student at the University of Iowa and a program assistant for the ICFRC, was particularly intrigued by the information brought forth by Dr. Melhem. 

“I am not a science or biology major so cholera is not something that was on my mind. But now it definitely is,” Passno said.

The lecture was part of a week-long visit from Dr. Melhem to advance the goals of an International Programs Major Projects Award called “Building Sustainable Multidisciplinary Global Health Collaborations: Connecting Ideas, Values, and People.” This project will aim to advance the goals of a recently established memorandum of understanding between the University of Iowa and the Faculty of Health Sciences at AUB. 

Dr. Melhem laid the foundation for the cross-disciplinary relationship between the two major academic institutions through this visit where she engaged with members of the community, Iowa students, and faculty and medical professionals through a series of meetings and community-based events. 

One of the event organizers, Dr. Claudia Corwin, professor of internal medicine and director of the University of Iowa Global Health Network, an International Programs affinity group, was important in launching this cross-disciplinary relationship. 

“One of the goals of Dr. Melhem’s visit was to take the conversation beyond the academic setting and involve the local community through community-based events,” Dr. Corwin said. 

The importance of bringing the event to the community was brought to light through elaborate discussions with community members during the lecture. Dr. Melhem was especially pleased with the engagement at the session. 

“This forum is an indicator of the city's ability to attract a diversified group of individuals inside this room,” Dr. Melhem said. 

Dr. Melhem noted that part of the long-term collaboration the two organizations want to foster is related to the exchange of students, faculty, research, and ideas. “I want to have this week translated into a long-term relationship across the world... It’s not going to end here; it’s just starting.”

Jackson Fischer, headshot
Jackson Fischer, author

This news story was written by Jackson Fischer, an Iowa student pursuing a BA in journalism and mass communications.






Through the generous support of the Stanley-UI Foundation Support Organization, International Programs' Major Projects Award promotes important contributions to scholarly debates and exchanges on international topics, issues, discoveries, and arts. Proposals for events that will take place on The University of Iowa campus and that will enhance international knowledge and understanding for University of Iowa faculty, staff, and students are therefore especially welcome.

International Programs (IP) at the University of Iowa (UI) is committed to enriching the global experience of UI students, faculty, staff, and the general public by leading efforts to promote internationally oriented teaching, research, creative work, and community engagement.  IP provides support for international students and scholars, administers scholarships and assistance for students who study, intern, or do research abroad, and provides funding opportunities and grant-writing assistance for faculty engaged in international research. IP shares their stories through various media, and by hosting multiple public engagement activities each year.