Celebrating 10 years at the forefront of global health research

In the blink of an eye, 10 years have passed since Professor Joep Lange formally established the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development. What began as a small group of scientists has grown into a diverse, thriving interdisciplinary institute with expertise that spans across several faculties at the two Amsterdam universities.

Since our first project in 2009, we’ve provided a collaborative, open space for scientists from a range of disciplines – biomedical, economics, medical anthropologists, social epidemiologists – to sit side-by-side to undertake interdisciplinary research. Our institute has developed a reputation for bringing diverse expertise together and tying it together through the fields of global health and development.

This interdisciplinary team is supported by an expert team of project managers and support staff, which enables the researchers to undertake groundbreaking projects, facilitate first-rate education and advocate for policy on a world stage. It’s this unique set up which has allowed our institute to achieve significant impact in just 10 short years: We’d undertaken more than 130 projects and researchers working through AIGHD publish more than 120 articles each year in peer-reviewed journals.

We serve on various policy and advocacy committees influencing global health and development at the most senior levels around the world. Our research has evaluated pioneering health insurance programs in Africa, exposed the growing burden of HIV drug resistance, uncovered the links between aging and HIV, started to tackle antimicrobial drug resistance and helped improve education policy in numerous countries. Our network of researchers committed to improving global health and development around the world has continued to grow, working across disciplines on a diverse portfolio of projects.

The integration of the Amsterdam Institute for International Development in 2017 bolstered our reputation as one of the most truly interdisciplinary teams, formally bringing on board a top-notch team of development economists.

On the education front, we continue to expand our offering and contribute to post-secondary education at all levels in close partnership with the University of Amsterdam’s Academic Medical Center and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU). Since 2009, we’ve supervised 75 successful PhD candidates, and countless Master’s and Bachelor’s students. We also saw the first cohort of Bachelor of Medicine students head to Sri Lanka through the Global Health in Context elective course, co-created by AIGHD. All of these achievements have played some role in shaping our organization but none so much as the loss of our founder in 2014.

Five years into our journey, Prof. Lange and his partner Jacqueline van Tongeren were killed when their plane, Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, was shot down over Ukraine. Joep and Jacqueline were mentors, inspirations and close friends to many of us and their sudden loss left an irreparable void in our organization.

Despite this tremendous loss, we continued to work towards Joep’s goals with the same tireless passion and commitment he bestowed onto every project he undertook. A year later, in Joep’s memory, the Joep Lange Chair & Fellows program was established. Based at the Department of Global Health-AIGHD, the program seeks to build on his interdisciplinary approach through rotating Chair and fellow appointments. This month, we held the first Joep Lange Chair & Fellows event, bringing together all four Chairholders and fellows for three days of networking, science and collaboration.

Celebrating 10 years gives us reason to consider our past achievements, but it also calls for renewed focus towards the future. We are committed to advancing knowledge, evidence creation and showing impact of innovative solutions to improve access to quality care and prevention and human development. Banking on the unique setting of two major universities in a truly global city, we continue to invite more researchers across an increasing number of faculties to band together with our team to achieve these goals. The fields of global health and development are diverse and we strive to expand our expertise and work with experts in Amsterdam and beyond to address some of the most complex challenges faced in the world today, such as migrant health, mental health and early child health.  We look forward to sharing more on our new projects in the coming months.

On behalf of AIGHD, the Executive Board extends a warm thank you to everyone who has been part of our history – funders, project partners, collaborators – and who will, most importantly, continue to be part of our future.

Thanks to your commitment, we can continue to find solutions to the greatest global health and development challenges.

Profs. Frank Cobelens, Anita Hardon, Constance Schultsz, Chris Elbers
Executive Board, AIGHD