Within the land of Genghis Khan: Gatto Takes Health Training to Mongolia


In its legendary past, the greatest causes of death in Mongolia were the swords and spears from the armies from the Ming Dynasty.

Today it’s too much smoking and drinking (among other factors).

To help america of some 3 million confront important health problems affecting its population, SCGH's Nicole Gatto traveled this summer to that particular sprawling nation-once the largest contiguous land empire in human history-and presented learning epidemiology to some large number of public healthcare professionals in Ulaanbaatar, the country's capital.

\”I have wanted to go to Mongolia for more than two decades,\” Gatto said, \”so this made the chance that rather more special. Indeed, this proved to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience!\”

As a Fulbright Specialist, Gatto was asked by Mongolia's National Center for Public Health (NCPH). The NCPH decided that Gatto-who is an associate professor of public health and directs the university's PhD in Health Promotion Sciences Program-was a perfect match for their training needs considering her expertise, knowledge, and skills in epidemiology.

Gatto, whose own research examines environmental, occupational, behavioral and genetic risks for neurological and heart diseases, taught a two-week intensive course on epidemiologic methods and applications to 22 trainees from six from the country's 21 provinces.

\”I modeled the course after prescribed material in the CDC and WHO,\” she explained, \”as well as applying my very own experience teaching epidemiology.\”

Public health, just like any SCGH professor like Gatto will explain, does not use a one-size-fits-all approach. Gatto asserted she was supplied with recent surveys on health indicators in Mongolia that helped her tailor her training to deal with the population's top needs.

What these reports showed was that current leading health issues include high rates of coronary disease, high prevalence of smoking (one inch two men light up), heavy drinking, and incident liver cancer (inadequate sterilization of shared glass syringes prior to the 1990s led to the development of hepatitis).

At the end of the course, Gatto and her NCPH colleagues awarded students with certificates of completion-and a CGU shirt featuring an empowering message taken from American poet Muriel Rukeyser: \”I am in the world to alter the planet.\”

\”There were lots of 'oohs' and \”ahhs' once the message on the shirt was translated on their behalf,\” she said. \”They just loved the shirts-more than I expected they'd!\”


Nothing better illustrates SCGH's (and CGU's) global focus than Gatto's trip, which gave her a chance to lay the groundwork for future collaborations between the NCPH and SCGH.

Gatto also squeezed in certain sightseeing as well-including pilgrimages to the Gobi Desert and Hustain National Park (home to the once-extinct wild Takhi horses) along with a trip to the massive statue of Genghis Khan that stands on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar-as well as networking with physicians and researchers and forging new relationships that they plans to maintain.

\”As a faculty member of the School of Community and Global Health, I see my Fulbright being an opportunity to build our international collaborations,\” she said. \”One of what I really hope will outgrow my trip is the fact that we will be able to offer greater research and practice opportunities for the students within the realm of global health in Mongolia and many other areas.\”

Visit here to explore Nicole Gatto.

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