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Forbes: Double Agents In Global Health

February 06, 2022 | Madhukar Pai

Nadia Sam-Agudu, MD

I was once called a 'double agent' because I grew up and trained in India, but now do global health research and teaching in Canada. I think it was meant as a compliment (I hope!) to suggest that someone like me understood global health from both perspectives. Of course, there are people from high-income countries living and working in low- and middle-income countries.

Historically, and even today, every aspect of global health is dominated by individuals, institutions and funders in high-income countries. In this landscape, how do double agents straddle two worlds? In what ways do they contribute? What privileges do they enjoy because of their status? What conflicts and challenges do they face and how do they try to resolve them?

This post is my attempt to tackle a complicated issue that has been on my mind for years. Indeed, 5 years ago, I wrote a post about how immigrant scientists can serve as dual citizen scientists and give back to their home countries. This time, I crowd-sourced input from 19 other double agents.

...“A conflict I struggle with is, from my position of privilege, if I am perpetuating harm (e.g. racism, prejudice, disrespect, imperialism) against my own people in the work that I do. Am I an agent for helicopter or parachute research? Am I colonialist and condescending in my approach to research among my own people? To what degree am I authentically representing and respecting my heritage, while meeting stereotypical expectations of excellence in academics?” asked Nadia Sam-Agudu, a Senior Technical Advisor, Institute of Human Virology Nigeria, and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine.

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Vanessa McMains
Director, Media & Public Affairs
Institute of Human Virology
University of Maryland School of Medicine

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