Rutgers University has hired Richard Marlink to head the new Global Health Institute as part of its continually expanding Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences school.Marlink will begin in July, after leaving his current post at Harvard’s School of Public Health and the executive director of the Harvard AIDS Initiative, according to a release from Rutgers.
In a phone interview Friday, Marlink explained the move from Massachusetts to New Jersey.
“You want to go where you are needed,” he said. “Harvard has lots going on in global health.”
AIDS has been Marlink’s area of expertise after he worked in Senegal in the mid-1980s.
There, he was part of a multinational group of researchers who discovered and then studied the second type of human AIDS virus, HIV-2.
He has since then been involved in care, treatment and prevention programs in Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. He has also organized initiatives to enhance HIV/AIDS care in Brazil, Puerto Rico and Thailand, according to Rutgers.
In Boston, Marlink set up the first HIV/AIDS clinic to study the impact of the HIV virus in west and central Africa.
His goal is to emulate the globalized efforts for treating cancer, as well as working with the existing strengths of Rutgers and organizing the university’s global programs.
“There are strengths they have and strengths that are needed. It’s exciting because Rutgers wants me to address that,” in the form of strategic planning, Marlink said. “Everyone seems to be waiting for it to get bigger and more organized.”
The school already has a number of programs with global outreach, such as surgery and the nursing school, but many of the efforts are addressed on vacation time, he said. That is where there is more structure needed.
Marlink said the school’s location in New Jersey, near the many pharmaceutical companies, is a huge advantage.
Having worked with the private sector, including New Jersey-based Merck and Bristol Meyers-Squibb, for global AIDS funding in the early 1990s when government and World Bank funding were minimal, Marlink is hoping to continue those relationships with his current role and focus on cancer.
“Cancer care, as we move forward, is going to be ten-fold what AIDS was back in the late ’90s,” he said. “As we continue with precision medicine … costs will be far out of reach for most of the rest of the world.”
And with Rutgers affiliated with two cancer institutes, Marlink believes untapped opportunities exist.
Brian Strom, RHS chancellor, said Marlink is going to help Rutgers become a global competitor.
“Richard Marlink’s goal is to drive Rutgers’ continued evolution as one of the leading global health centers in the country, linking together and building upon significant resources we are committing to improving the public health as part of our strategic plan,” Strom said in a statement. “His expertise as a researcher, scholar and leader of grassroots health care delivery will be vital to Rutgers as we undertake global health initiatives that assist populations locally and around the world. His experiences will be particularly valuable in demonstrating to students how, as involved citizens, they can positively impact major societal issues.”
Marlink’s focuses at Rutgers will include:
- Old and new infectious disease epidemics;
- The expanding burden of noncommunicable diseases in poor populations;
- The social and environmental threats to health, poverty and humanitarian crises;
- Inadequate local and developing country health systems;
- Creating the Global Health Institute to support the development of global health research programs;
- Recruiting faculty with interests in global health;
- Creating a web-based global health resource center for faculty and students.