President Bok will leave Cambridge next week for a two-week trip to Africa, where he will meet with government officials and community health leaders on the general topic of public health in developing countries.
Bok's visit, which will include stops in Nigeria, Zaire and Kenya, is the first trip he has taken outside the United States since taking office as Harvard's president in 1970.
He will be accompanied by John H. Knowles, '47, former director of Mass General Hospital and now at the Rockefeller Foundation in New York.
Bok said yesterday that it would be important for the School of Public Health and the Medical School to stay abreast of public health issues in developing countries as those issues gain in importance.
He said he expects no immediate result from his trip, but that it would be useful--both for the University and for the countries he plans to visit--to share information.
"They're very interested in what is happening at the School of Public Health and the Medical School," Bok said.
He said he hoped the trip "will help me open my eyes and my imagination in longer-range kinds of ways.
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"One can become short-sighted working 10 to 12 hours a day, seven days a week, on the immediate problems of the University," Bok said.
Bok will also speak to the Harvard Alumni of Nigeria during his trip.
Knowles served as general director of Massachusetts General Hospital from 1962 to 1972, and was a professor of Medicine at the Medical School. He left those posts to take a position as chairman of the Rockefeller Foundation.
Knowles could not be reached for comment yesterday.