Stanford researcher Sharon Perry PhD, an infectious disease specialist, has been working in North Korea with a team of American health specialists to develop the country’s first diagnostic laboratory to test drug-resistant tuberculosis. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as the hermit country is formally known, witnessed a resurgence of TB in the 1990s after famines plagued the country.
The TB Diagnostics Project is being led by the Bay Area TB Consortium, which Perry directs, and the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a Washington nonprofit group working to strengthen global security. The program came about after a team of North Korean health officials visited California and met with Stanford and Bay Area tuberculosis experts in 2008.
It’s unusual for any outsiders to visit North Korea, but extremely rare for Americans. Safe to say that it's an unprecedented partnership between U.S. researchers and health officials in North Korea. So far, Perry has ventured there three times and is soon to return for a fourth visit.
I spoke with Perry for a 1:2:1 podcast about her work in North Korea. It’s a candid, revealing interview that pulls back the curtain a bit from this most mysterious nation. I found it fascinating to hear Perry describe the work there and talk about collaborating with officials from the Ministry of Health on this significant health crisis for the nation. The porous nature of geographical borders and the ability of disease to spread easily from one country to another clearly illustrates that we’re one planet and all in this together.