It’s common to see short, one- or two-day lectures delivered by visiting scholars advertised on college campuses across the country.
But during those events, the scholar rarely has much, if any, time to meet students, faculty and staff, or to explore and learn more about the institution they are visiting.
Augusta University’s Visiting Scholars Program within the Faculty Inclusive Excellence Initiative offers a different experience for these scholars. Through the program, they stay for several weeks up to an entire semester, and that is something visiting scholar Diego Cuadros, PhD, enjoyed the most about his experience earlier this semester.
“I am used to visiting other institutions for short periods, barely having time to really interact with the hosting faculty, let alone the staff and students,” Cuadros said.
“Undoubtedly, this was one of the aspects that I enjoyed the most about this program. During the three weeks, I had the privilege of interacting with faculty, staff and trainees in so many different scenarios. I have experienced now firsthand Augusta’s vibrant research and academic environment. These interactions went beyond the Department of Population Health Sciences, which was my hosting department.”
Cuadros, who was born and raised in Colombia’s capital city of Bogotá, is the first of two Hispanic/Latino scholars visiting AU during the 2022-23 academic year as part of the initiative, which was established to create a comprehensive plan and strategy for advancing underrepresented faculty at AU and within various disciplines. Ricardo Hughes, MD, of Panama, will officially begin his participation in the program in January.
Diego Cuadros, PhD
Cuadros, who was sponsored by Jie Chen, PhD, professor and interim chair of the Department of Population Health Sciences (DPHS) and division chief of the Division of Biostatistics and Data Science, visited DPHS at the Medical College of Georgia from Aug. 15 to Sept. 2 from the University of Cincinnati.
And through his research work at Cincinnati, he was already familiar with Augusta University thanks to a former colleague, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Neil J. MacKinnon, PhD.
“Dr. Cuadros’s visit provided a great opportunity for exchanging ideas and a variety of approaches aimed at developing new research projects that target health care disparities and the identification of the determinants of these health disparities in Georgia as well as in Ohio,” said Chen.
“By visiting our department, Dr. Cuadros helped strengthen the department’s research in epidemiology by collaborating with faculty. It was also a great opportunity to exchange knowledge and currently relevant methodologies in the data science and epidemiology fields, which are the focus of the DPHS at AU, with Dr. Cuadros’ Digital Epidemiology Laboratory at the University of Cincinnati.”
An associate professor within the Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science at Cincinnati, Cuadros specializes in research areas such as digital epidemiology, health geography and geographic information system applications in epidemiology, mathematical modeling of infectious diseases, HIV epidemiology, host-pathogen and pathogen-pathogen interactions.
During his stay, Cuadros hosted a three-lecture workshop series, “Spatial Epidemiology and GIS Workshop,” as well as a presentation, “Spatial epidemiology of COVID-19 in the US: Two years into the pandemic.”
“Being one of the first professors invited to Augusta University as part of the Faculty Inclusive Excellence Visiting Scholar program was a terrific experience,” Cuadros said.
Part of what stood out during Cuadros’s stay was the opportunity to meet and interact with AU students, faculty and staff. Even if three weeks wasn’t a long time, it still allowed Cuadros to learn more about AU and the people here.
“I really value the tremendous opportunity that the program opens to exchange ideas and experiences to strengthen interinstitutional academic collaborations,” Cuadros continued. “During my short stay here, I was able to not only consolidate several of the ongoing research collaborations that I have with Provost Neil MacKinnon, but also to establish new potential collaborations with other faculty.
“Another invaluable aspect of the program was my interaction with the trainees during the one-week workshop that I imparted. Sharing my research and some of my technical expertise with the students at Augusta was extremely rewarding. These are just a few examples of the productive and beneficial outcomes of visiting scholar programs as the one Augusta has launched. I hope other institutions follow this example.”
Ricardo Hughes, MD
Hughes, who has already participated in a fellowship at Augusta University, will be back on campus to begin his visit through the program Jan. 3 to May 31. During his visit, he will alternate between periods of in-person instruction and virtual instruction when he returns home to Panama.
Hughes, who is the director of emergency medical services for Panama, will be visiting the Department of Emergency Medicine at MCG, and will be sponsored by Richard Schwartz, MD, FACEP, department chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine; Amado Alejandro Baez, MD, MPH, PhD, professor of emergency medicine and vice chair for operational medicine; and Ricaurte Solis, DO, associate professor in emergency medicine.
Baez and Solis saw an opportunity in the Visiting Scholars program to help bolster the fellowship programs associated with EMS and wilderness medicine.
“Dr. Hughes has significant leadership experience as the director of EMS in Panama, so we thought that our fellowship could be a very unique program in the sense that we could bring him on board to train to be the first fellowship-trained EMS physician in Panama, but also take advantage of his leadership experiences, both through teaching and practice,” said Baez.
“It kind of worked great in the sense that I think a lot of programs are successful because they need to be a two-way street. We are offering a unique training opportunity for Dr. Hughes, but his unique professional experiences are also going to be invaluable to us and will help us grow the program from both ends.”
Hughes has 16 years of experience working in EMS, and the last six as a medical doctor. He is already intimately familiar with AU as he is AU’s first international EMS fellow, where part of his role is to work with the faculty to further develop the program with an emphasis on expanding the department’s footprint in Latin America.
Hughes will collaborate and mentor emergency medicine residents and faculty, as well as EMS and Wilderness Medicine faculty and fellows in Augusta.
“Dr. Hughes brings a different perspective with regard to emergency medicine, medical services, pre-hospital care and emergency medicine to the table for us at Augusta University,” Solis said.
“He’s also participating with our Ultrasound Fellowship, so there has been some overlap, and I think that’s valuable for our medical students and our residents to see because emergency medicine is highly variable from site to site, even within the United States.
“It’s also important to have him here because it allows us to have opportunities for our fellows and residents from the Hispanic community to work with fellow Hispanic medical professionals. He can mentor our medical students and residents from his own experiences, while collaborating with our faculty. It’s a win-win where we’re helping to advance his education and his training, but he’s also teaching us at the same time, and that is very, very valuable.”
The opportunity to continue to pave the way for Hispanic/Latino students and medical professionals is not lost on Hughes.
“It’s a unique opportunity, not only for me, but this will open the doors for other physicians from Latin America. I am just the first one, but it doesn’t mean I am going to be the only one,” Hughes said.
“At the same time, I am able to share some of my experiences that I have, because we have some issues in Panama that they probably don’t have here, and we are trying to share all information, all experiences. How we deal with specific diseases or disaster management, but we still have the same goal. We are learning on both sides, and that is beneficial for everyone.”
This is the second installment of a series covering the Visiting Scholars Program within the Faculty Inclusive Excellence Initiative. Be on the lookout for future features on other visiting scholars.