UCSD Chair In International Health and Cross-Cultural Medicine
Named For Harold J. Simon, M.D., Ph.D.

Harold J. Simon, M.D., Ph.D.

Harold J. Simon, M.D., Ph.D., a founding member of the UCSD School of Medicine faculty and a leader in the field of international health and health policy, has been honored with the establishment of an endowed chair in his name.

The Harold Simon Chair in International Health and Cross-Cultural Medicine has been established by an anonymous donor in recognition of Simon’s contributions in the field of global health, from his role in the design of health care systems serving developing countries, to his leadership in initiating cultural awareness training as part of the medical student experience.

Issues ranging from emerging infectious diseases, physical and psychological trauma experienced by refugees, malnutrition, rapid population growth, and limited resources for effective health care service delivery are among the challenges that arise in a diverse population. The Harold Simon Chair will support efforts to expand the School of Medicine’s Department of Family and Preventive Medicine’s educational and research activities in these areas. This is the only endowed chair in international health at a U.S. medical school, according to Simon. A national search will be conducted for an individual to be named to the chair.

Simon, who is professor Family and Preventive Medicine and chief of the Division of International Health and Cross-cultural Medicine, was one of the first faculty members recruited to the UCSD School of Medicine. Arriving in 1966, with the first medical students scheduled to enter in 1968, Simon was among the early planners who designed the school’s curriculum and established many of its lasting programs.

As the medical school’s first dean of admissions, education and student affairs, he established the procedures for recruitment and admission, student affairs, financial aid and curriculum development. He has remained committed to teaching students that understanding and respecting their patients’ cultural backgrounds and belief systems are critically important aspects of providing health care. He has addressed this through implementation of a number of community-based as well as international programs for students, including a course in Spanish and cross-cultural issues that was first of its kind in the country.

“I think it is necessary for all students to realize that there are significant differences in disease incidence and prevalence, in the way health care is delivered, and how concepts of health and illness are viewed by diverse cultures throughout the world,” Simon said. “Medicine doesn’t recognize any geographic or national borders. In a world where the inequalities of health are grotesque; where for many millions of people health is absent throughout life; where nevertheless every individual has the right to the enjoyment of health, are we as doctors content to leave things as they are?”

Simon established the Division of International Health for the Institute of Medicine/National Academy of Sciences and has lectured at universities and medical schools throughout the world. He has traveled extensively as an adviser to many developing countries, helping these countries’ governments establish health education and health care systems. His particular interests center on the needs of small, isolated developing countries.

“This endowment is a fitting tribute to Dr. Simon, a dedicated and respected expert in international health,” said Robert M. Kaplan, Ph.D., chairman of the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine. “His activities range from teaching students, to coordinating major public service initiatives, to developing liaisons between UCSD and other medical schools abroad, especially the Pacific Rim countries. His interests continue to be far-reaching. He recently coordinated the national conference on Bio-Terrorism which was held in San Diego.”

The endowed chair will support the department’s commitment to meeting the needs of California’s increasing cultural diversity. It will help ensure that physicians and educators reach a better understanding of the health care needs of a diverse population—including cultural competency in caring for patients that goes beyond merely speaking the same language, said Kaplan.

Simon has authored eight books and more than 130 articles in refereed journals on topics of infection and infectious diseases, host-parasite interactions, antimicrobial therapy, medical education, health policy and cross-cultural issues. He is a fellow of numerous and international societies, including the American College of Physicians, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Society of Medicine, the American College of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics and the American Public Health Association. He is a founding Fellow of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. He was also the recipient of an honorary doctorate bestowed by Yokohama City University.

Simon was born in Karlsruhe, Germany. He came to the U.S. in 1938 where he obtained his secondary education. After premedical studies at UC Berkeley, he was awarded the M.D. degree cum laude at the Harvard Medical School, and his Ph.D. degree from the Rockefeller Institute, where he was a member of the charter class. He joined the faculty of Stanford University School of Medicine in 1959, and was recruited to the new UCSD School of Medicine in 1966.

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Media Contact: Leslie Franz
619-543-6163  lfranz@ucsd.edu

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