Statement on International Affiliations
The Value of International Relationships to The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston ("UTHealth")
Although located in the southwestern United States, Houston is a global community. Long-standing relationships with oil-producing countries established Houston as a key international destination many years ago. Since that time, relationships have grown with countries of the Near and Far East, Europe, Latin America, and Australia. Houston ranks third among cities in the United States in numbers of consulates – a testimony to its diverse international ties.
The globalization of science, health care, and education creates a mandate to continually increase awareness of global issues of science and health. International relationships increase our understanding of cultural, geographic, political, and philosophic similarities and differences around the world. Health care professionals should be aware of health issues beyond their borders. They should be willing to share their expertise with international colleagues to alleviate suffering and disease, no matter where it occurs. Science knows no borders, and research is enhanced when knowledge is widely shared.
UTHealth has much to share and much to gain from international relationships and affiliations, and initiates and fosters international relationships that enhance the university's mission: to educate health professionals and biomedical scientists; to conduct research in the biomedical sciences, health care, and public policy; and to deliver health care and health-related consultation to its various publics at home and abroad. The enhancement of the mission through these relationships will be measured primarily in intangible but reciprocal benefits, rather than physical or material resources.
Enhancing The UTHealth Mission through International Relationships
In education, international relationships should broaden the perspectives of the students and faculty involved. UTHealth could provide international visitors with educational experiences not available in their home countries and could build on their knowledge and experience. Similarly, these relationships could provide our students and faculty who visit other countries with unique educational opportunities that expand their professional understanding.
In research, international relationships could enhance the quality and breadth of science. International relationships in research could offer both parties the benefits of sharing faculty expertise and offer UTHealth faculty and students opportunities for research experiences that are not available locally.
In patient care, international affiliations and relationships could offer all participants the benefits of sharing clinical knowledge and experience. Physicians and other health care providers may also have additional opportunities to expand the patient base typically available to students and residents. At some point, the university may determine a strategic direction combining international affiliations and revenue generation with a sophisticated blend of approaches to investment options, the limits of altruism, and other related strategic priorities. Any marketing of efforts concerning such revenue generation could be done in concert with colleague institutions in the Texas Medical Center.
While university leaders recognize the "prestige" factor of some relationships – that is, that both UTHealth and the international contact may gain some renown as a result of the contact – the prestige inherent in a particular relationship should not be the compelling reason to develop the affiliation. At the same time, relationships founded primarily in prestige may provide opportunities unknown at the time of inception of the relationship, and international relationships have a particular cachet for recruiting students.
Obligations to International Students, Fellows, and Faculty
We at UTHealth actively recruit students, fellows, or faculty members to become part of the health science center community, and we should assure that their experiences are meaningful and beneficial. We should provide an atmosphere of acceptance and appreciation of diversity. We should help them become acclimated to the life of the community while they are here. Students and faculty sent to other universities to represent UTHealth should reflect our values and represent the best of our education experience.
Protecting the Critical Interpersonal Nature of International Relationships
The interpersonal relationship – the individuals involved – is the critical factor in the success or failure of international relationships. International relationships consume faculty time, energy, and commitment. To protect this relationship, faculty members should promptly notify the Vice President for Global Health Initiatives, when discussing projects with a potential affiliate. International academic and scholarly exchange agreements require the approval of UT System; the Vice President for Global Health Initiatives can facilitate obtaining this approval and, along with the staff of the Office of Legal Affairs, provide information and services that will ease the process for all concerned. Interactions at the institutional level are facilitated – and misunderstandings are avoided – by having a written agreement in place that defines the nature of the interactions and the responsibilities and obligations of the participating universities/entities. Formal and informal agreements alike are most effective when spelled out in written form, to outline expectation, assure understanding on the part of all involved, and protect the interpersonal relationship that brought the affiliation about.
Updated 4/97; 08/07; 07/16