DMU supports World Triathlon with global health outreach

April 6, 2010 —

Nearly 830 women die in Nepal for every 100,000 live births. This is the 16th worst maternal mortality rate in the world. So when Dr. Yogesh Shah, associate dean of global affairs for Des Moines University, met Charlie Wittmack, a world class adventurer, speaker, educator, attorney and family man planning a first-of-its-kind intercontinental triathlon that goes through Nepal, the wheels started to turn.

Wittmack was the first Iowan to climb Mount Everest and the man who attempted to swim the English Channel in 2008. He will embark on The World Triathlon, an 11-month expedition to swim, bike and run nearly 12,000 miles through 12 countries, an unprecedented feat even for world-caliber triathlon participants.

Dr. Shah saw Wittmack’s downtime in Nepal training to climb Mount Everest as a wonderful opportunity for global health outreach. So when The World Tri group reaches Kathmandu, Nepal, DMU will provide on-site clinicians and students to work with them to provide training on safe childbearing. DMU will team up with its partners, the World Health Organization and the White Ribbon Alliance, and medical professionals to work with local birth attendants to teach best practices and provide equipment for complicated deliveries with DMU’s state-of-the-art simulators. There will also be a push for public awareness and education.

“Nepal has one of the highest infant mortality rates in southeast Asia. By getting involved in The World Tri project, Des Moines University’s Global Health program will be able to bring awareness to the problem and provide much-needed public education,” said Dr. Shah. “Through training of skilled caregivers and community education, we are optimistic that we can make a big impact on the health of woman while providing our students and the community with educational opportunities.”

The World Tri team begins the expedition July 11, 2010 and will end June 11, 2011. Wittmack’s team includes his wife, Cate, and their two-year-old son, James. The World Tri will include a K-12 curriculum for students across the U.S. and beyond, and enable the public to follow along the journey via their website.

The physical therapists and exercise physiologists from the and DMU Human Performance LabRunning & Cycling Clinic are also involved in The World Tri. They performed a gait analysis, resting his resting energy expenditure, ran a VO2 max test while he ran and cycled and testing his running and cycling efficiency. Once he is ready to depart, most of the tests will be re-done to show improvements. Similar measurements will be taken over the 11-month journey for comparison, as possible. These kind of statistics will be used for research projects and education.

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Des Moines University (DMU) is the only private medical school in Iowa, offering graduate-level, professional degree programs in osteopathic medicine, podiatric medicine, physical therapy, physician assistant studies, biomedical sciences, anatomy, health care administration and public health. Founded in 1898, the institution offers superior academics in a collaborative environment. DMU students' pass rate on national examinations and board certifications is consistently higher than the national average and the rates at similar institutions.


Courtney Tompkins has been part of the DMU marketing team since Nov. 2005 and loves promoting a school she believes in so thoroughly. Proud daughter and patient of DMU alumni, Courtney knows, first-hand, that Des Moines University is doing a world of good. A fan of all outdoor festivals, fruity drinks and nearly all edibles, she has a hard time narrowing down her list of favorite places to go and things to do but lists the Iowa State Fair as an all-time fave. She loves her 8-minute commute to DMU from Urbandale, a suburb of Des Moines. She and husband Tyler are owned by three large dogs, Tonka, Tucker and Tank.