By Donald G. McNeil Jr.
Prominent American and Canadian research universities earned mostly C’s on the first report card assessing how much their laboratories benefit the world’s poor.
The top grade, an A-minus, went to the University of British Columbia. Various B’s were earned by Case Western Reserve, Johns Hopkins, UC Irvine, Harvard and Emory. Beyond that, none of the 54 universities graded earned higher than a C+.
UC Davis tied for 26th, with a C-minus.
The report card was written by Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, a student group with chapters at schools around the world. It was released in coordination with Doctors Without Borders and was endorsed by Dr. Paul Farmer, a pioneer in bringing health care to Haiti and Rwanda.
“Universities are increasingly trying to position themselves as leaders in global health because students are demanding it,” said Bryan Collinsworth, of the student group. “But their definition of global health is often vague, and unfortunately trends toward easy, low-cost, PR-friendly steps.”
The grades were based on three categories: how much research is devoted to neglected diseases or to aspects of diseases that affect poor countries, like AIDS in babies; how much effort is made to ensure discoveries become available to the poor; and how many global health courses are taught.
Five years ago, a similar report card ranking pharmaceutical companies was created by the Netherlands-based Access to Medicine Index. Major firms ignored it at first but by last year they were naming executives to ensure they excelled, and boasting to shareholders when they did.