University of Washington School of Public Health

UW SPH News: Former US Rep. McDermott Endows Global Health Fellowship

Former US Rep. McDermott Endows Global Health Fellowship


Select graduate students in the UW School of Public Health will be able to travel around the world to engage communities in health promotion, thanks to a new fellowship established by former U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, the long-time Seattle Congressman.

Jim McDermott photo
Jim McDermott

The James A. McDermott, M.D., Endowed Global Health Fellowship is for students proficient in a language other than English and who are “internationalists.” Funds are anticipated to be available in fall of 2018.

Rep. McDermott credits his interest in healthy communities around the world to a trip he took in college with friends to a remote part of Africa, made possible by the father of a friend. The fellowship, he says, is his way of paying it forward.

After earning his medical degree, McDermott served in the Navy Medical Corps as a psychiatrist during the Vietnam War. After returning to the U.S., he realized he could do more to improve the lives of others as an elected official. He went on to get elected to the Washington State Legislature in 1972, and for the next 30 years, he advocated for legislation that aids society’s most vulnerable populations — foster children, low-income families, unemployed Americans, and those confronting major illness or disability.

Taking a brief leave from politics in 1987, McDermott also spent a year as a regional medical officer based in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, during the early days of the AIDS epidemic. He later served as a U.S. Foreign Service Medical Officer providing psychiatric services to State Department employees, USAID staff and Peace Corps personnel throughout sub-Saharan Africa.