CUGH is a product of the expanding interest in global health. The concept of an association of universities involved in global health was first introduced in 2005 when Dr. Gerald Keusch invited leaders from the foremost US and Canadian university-based global health centers to a meeting at Boston University to discuss whether a consortium should be formed.

Two years later, in September 2007, Dr. Jaime Sepulveda chaired an international conference of global health experts in San Francisco, co-hosted by the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), Global Health Sciences (GHS), and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). During the conference, funding was secured from the BMGF to develop initial planning for the consortium and to hold an Inaugural Meeting in September 2008 in San Francisco. The Inaugural Meeting brought together representatives from 24 universities along with individuals from the Gates and Rockefeller Foundations, the Fogarty International Center, and the Gladstone Institute. The participants generated a vision for the organization and provided the impetus to establish a board of directors and a formal consortium structure. Following that meeting, the Rockefeller Foundation provided a grant to help sustain the nascent consortium and enable it to move to formal incorporation as a non-profit entity.

CUGH’s first Annual Meeting was held on September 14-15, 2009 at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. Made possible in part by a BMGF Conference Grant, the meeting entitled “Future of Global Health: Funding, Development, Research, and Education,” was attended by 287 participants. The first steps to enroll dues-paying institutional members were taken at Bethesda when CUGH’s membership program was introduced. In 2010, under the direction of then-CUGH Chair Haile Debas, UCSF was awarded a three-year grant from the BMGF to accelerate the development of CUGH.

In 2009, CUGH also entered into merger discussions with the Global Health Education Consortium (GHEC). This group was founded in 1991 to facilitate and enhance global health education in health professional schools and residency programs. The merger presented the opportunity to combine the best ideas, programs, policies, and procedures from each organization and to consider new ideas and programs. The first formal step toward a CUGH-GHEC merger took place on January 4, 2011 when a Memorandum of Understanding was signed, creating a general framework and process to discuss and negotiate the merger. Several committees were formed to provide guidance and contribute to the merger process. In December 2011, the merger between CUGH and GHEC was completed and called CUGH. Results of the merger included a stronger membership base and the expansion of educational resources. In late 2012, the Secretariat moved to Washington, DC and Dr. Keith Martin was hired as its Executive Director.