Knapp highlights GW partnerships within the District

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Celebrations of University President Steven Knapp’s upcoming inauguration began Tuesday by highlighting GW’s relationship with the District of Columbia.

Knapp demonstrated the University’s close links with the District by visiting public schools, touring the Jacob Burns Community Legal Clinic, meeting with District business representatives at the School of Business and discussing local public health issues at the GW Hospital.

Tuesday began with a presentation highlighting specific University programs that have relationships with various District institutions. Representatives from the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Professional Studies and the Graduate School of Education and Human Development ran the presentation.

The seven partnerships chosen were ones with “long-standing, substantive, and bi-lateral” bonds, said Anne Saunders, a faculty member with the human services program. The partnership between the GW museums studies department and The Smithsonian Institute is one such program.

“(This partnership has provided) incredible opportunities to participate in original research,” said Deborah Hull-Walski, collections manager at The Smithsonian.

Hull-Walski worked with GW interns on “The Boy in the Coffin,” which allowed the interns to work alongside Smithson experts to identify the identity of a body found in a cast-iron coffin in Northeast D.C.

Robert Egger, founder of D.C. Central Kitchen, said these types of University-community partnerships benefit both GW students and the community.

“The skill level and the passion of this younger generation is our greatest asset,” Egger said.

When Knapp visited the Jacob Burns Community Legal Clinics – a group of law students and lawyers who provide free legal assistance to the GW community – he praised the clinics participants.

“I had no concept of the breadth, depth and richness of the program,” Knapp said.

The clinics provide an opportunity for students to bring their ideas into practice in a way that will benefit the city and “serve the under served,” said Phyllis Goldfarb, associate dean for clinical affairs.

“Clinics are the soul of a legal education,” said Goldfarb. “Through the process students become professionals in the best sense of the word.”

Doctors and researchers presented their work on health issues in the D.C. community at Tuesday’s final event, held at GW Hospital. The Medical School currently boasts more than 1,600 partnerships in the District.

“No doubt we feel that the community is our partner,” he said. “It’s more of a sense of giving back. The city is our reason for being.”

Two areas of health care specifically highlighted were HIV/AIDS and cancer research. Gary Simon and Alan Greenberg discussed their efforts to better manage HIV infections in Washington, a city with the highest HIV rates in the country, with great pride.

“It’s been an enormous investment,” Greenberg said. “Our goal is to make the D.C. Department of Health the model for HIV surveillance nationwide.”

Knapp spoke briefly, calling the medical school presentations “inspiring.”

He said, “I’m very impressed by the depth of our partnerships and what we’re doing on HIV and cancer.”

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