Gates Foundation Gives $20 Million for Global Health

Institute gains endowment, matching gift program
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Jul 15, 2015

A $20 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will help the Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI) educate a new generation of leaders and experts, and build research capacity from Durham to Delhi to address critical global health challenges.

“The Duke Global Health Institute is committed to putting the expertise of faculty and students in service of addressing the most widespread health challenges,” said Duke University President Richard H. Brodhead.  “We’re deeply grateful for this generous grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which will enable Duke to generate new knowledge needed to reduce health disparities—as well as expand learning opportunities for students at Duke.” 

The grant provides $10 million in endowment support to sustain the growth of DGHI. The other $10 million will support a challenge that will match one dollar for every dollar given—making the total impact of the grant $30 million—and will allow other donors to partner with the foundation to:

  • Build on Duke’s recognized leadership in global health education, particularly its hands-on learning opportunities, to meet the growing demand of students interested in global health;
  • Recruit and support faculty at Duke working across disciplines and schools to address global health challenges. Examples include HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment (medicine and public policy), mental health (psychiatry and psychology) and strengthening health systems (economics and management);
  • Bolster financial aid for students, including graduate fellowships and support for international students; and
  • Strengthen DGHI’s partnerships with institutions and organizations in priority locations such as Haiti, Kenya, Tanzania, Sri Lanka and South Africa.

“I’m excited that our support can help to increase the visibility of the institute as well as raise the capacity of the global health sector,” said Melinda Gates, who is co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a Duke alumna. 


Launched in 2006, DGHI is among top global health programs in the United States. More than 400 students, spanning undergraduates, master’s candidates and medical residents, have completed education programs at DGHI. Currently, some 300 undergraduates are pursuing a major or minor in global health.

“This generous gift will greatly enhance the ability of DGHI to deliver innovative interdisciplinary educational programs while driving forward their important research mission,” said Provost Sally Kornbluth. 

DGHI’s projects in the United States—many in underserved populations in North Carolina—address a range of health care issues, including access to care, substance abuse, HIV/AIDS and cancer. DGHI faculty members are also partnering with organizations and institutions on more than 300 projects in 54 countries, many of which have direct impact on global health policy or practice. Among them are efforts to:

  • Strengthen medical education in Tanzania, where infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS are still the cause of many deaths;
  • Expand health system innovations in India, where chronic disease, environmental health and health inequalities are major concerns;
  • Better understand the dynamics of environmental change, population growth and human health in Peru; and
  • Track rising obesity rates in China, where rapid economic growth has resulted in similar gains in the population’s waistlines. More than 25 percent of adult women and more than a third of men in the country are overweight or obese.  

"This significant gift enables us to continue to build and share our expertise in medical education, biomedical research and innovative care delivery in some of the neediest areas globally,” said A. Eugene Washington, M.D., chancellor for health affairs at Duke University and president and CEO of the Duke University Health System. “In collaboration with partners like the Gates Foundation, we will strengthen our work to address disparities and improve healthcare access and outcomes across the world.” 

Michael Merson, M.D., DGHI director and the Wolfgang Joklik professor of global health, said the institute was grateful to the foundation “for their foresight in making such an investment at Duke.”

“Duke’s culture of collaboration enables faculty and students to bring the collective power of multiple disciplines to address complex societal problems,” Merson said. “This important gift from the Gates Foundation will allow us to extend our reach across Duke and around the world.”


Download a PDF of the press release.


Diana Harvey
(919) 681-7718