The Zika virus was one of many timely topics examined as Brazilian healthcare graduate students spent a week studying the U.S. healthcare system at Suffolk University.

Sawyer Business School Professor Richard H. Beinecke of Suffolk's Institute for Public Service and Healthcare Administration program and Professor Marcia Novaretti, dean of the Uninove Graduate Healthcare program at Universidade Nove de Julio in Sao Paulo, directed the program, with the support of Professor Tammy MacLean and Priscilla Rosati of Suffolk’s Center for Executive Education.

Novaretti, who is immersed in Zika research, discussed Brazil’s efforts to deal with the virus, which can cause severe brain defects in the babies of women who are infected during pregnancy. There is no cure, so the Brazilian government is focused on prevention and preparing for the future of the infants affected.

“A large number of children are going to be disabled, so Brazil is developing lifelong programs,” said Beinecke. “Brazil is the epicenter of the Zika epidemic, and that’s an important part of the story.”

In addition to learning about Zika, the 18 students engaged with the following lecturers during the weeklong program:

  • Beinecke on the U. S. health system and change leadership
  • Professor Elizabeth Turner, patient safety
  • Professor Carlos Rufin, predeterminants of health: poverty, health and the economy
  • Mary Cramer, senior director of process improvement and ambulatory management and performance at Massachusetts General Hospital, on the work that she is leading
  • Joshua Cohen, Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, on the pricing and reimbursement of prescription drugs

Site visits

  • John Fernandez, CEO of Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and a Suffolk Board member, and COO and Suffolk alumnus Jeffrey Pike led an extensive presentation on the work of this world-renowned hospital.
  • A visit to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts covered the Massachusetts healthcare market, insurance, and alternative quality contracts and PPO payment reform.
  • At Fenway Health, Jim Hunt, who teaches in Suffolk’s Moakley Center certificate program, and others reviewed the history of community health centers and the particular work that this center does with the LGBT community and with people living with HIV/AIDS.

The students and four faculty members from Uninove also took the time to tour Boston and Cambridge. Some of them had never left Brazil or been on an airplane, and they quickly became avid Boston tourists. One stop on their exploration was a visit with John Herman of MGH’s Department of Psychiatry and artists Lucia and Warren Prosperi, who told the history of the first use of ether in MGH’s Ether Dome and showed how the Prosperis created a mural of that important medical event. The week ended with a luncheon and graduation ceremony.

This is the second summer that a Uninove group has come to Suffolk, and Novaretti will return with a new group next summer, while Beinecke hopes to be a guest in Sao Paulo. Follow-up research, writing, and collaborations will continue to build this international relationship.