H. Kenneth Walker, MD, a professor of medicine and neurology at the Emory University School of Medicine, has been named an honorary citizen of Georgia -- not his native state, but the distant country of nearly 5 million located in the shadow of the Caucasus Mountains. Dr. Walker said the award honors the work of scores of students and faculty, who have been involved for over a decade in a broad-based exchange program designed to improve access to modern health care in the former Soviet Republic.
Dr. Walker, who has made numerous trips to Georgia since 1992 as co-director of the Atlanta-Tbilisi Healthcare Partnership, received the rare honor from Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in a ceremony held in Tbilisi today.
Explaining his investment of time and energy over the past decade, Dr. Walker said simply: "I feel that academic institutions need to be involved in helping developing countries. We have so much we can bring to the table, especially with our advantages in modern information technology, medical care and science."
Last summer, President Saakasvhvili, an American-educated lawyer, visited Atlanta, spoke at Emory, and received an award from the American Bar Association for promoting the rule of law.
In November, President Saakasvhvili also granted honorary Georgian citizenship to Bijan Fazlollahi, professor at Georgia State University's J. Mack Robinson College of Business' Institute of International Business, for his work in business education and his service to Georgia.
The Healthcare Partnership grew out of a 1989 commitment by former Emory President James Laney to improve Georgia's education and health systems. Launched in 1992, the Healthcare Partnership includes Emory University's School of Medicine, Rollins School of Public Health, and Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing; Georgia State University; Morehouse School of Medicine; Grady Memorial Hospital; and the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Supported by a major grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the project has worked with organizations such as the World Bank, the World Health Organization, the Soros Open Society Institute, the Partnership for Peace Information Management System, and others.
Major program areas include health policy reform, access to modern medical information; medical, public health, and residency training of Georgian students at Emory; nursing education; emergency medical services training; maternal and child health; business education; tuberculosis and AIDS; and prosthetics for the estimated 10,000 lower limb amputees in Georgia, half of them due to landmines.
"Ken Walker and his colleagues who are involved in the Atlanta-Tbilisi partnership, halfway around the world, embody Emory University's vision to be deeply and ethically engaged in the hard work of transforming society," said Michael M.E. Johns, MD, executive vice president for health affairs. "We are proud of the impact they are having in the lives of people who desperately need the benefits of modern medicine and science."
For more information on the Atlanta-Tbilisi Healthcare Partnership, including a summary of accomplishments and major program areas, see http://www.medicine.emory.edu/atl_tbl/ on the World Wide Web.