Distinctive 2016 Grads Ten Duke University global health majors graduated with distinction!

The Graduation with Distinction program recognizes students who demonstrate academic excellence by completing a substantive written project.

Zack Fowler examined the correlation between secondary school attrition and reproductive health among female students in rural Kenya.

Zack's study was based on his extensive work with WISER International, a community development organization in Kenya focusing on the social empowerment of underprivileged girls through education and health. He found that health correlates of attrition vary based on cause of attrition and current circumstance and that emerging health concerns include birthing complications, self-harm, diminished self-worth and domestic violence. His advisor was Sherryl Broverman, associate professor of global health and biology.

The data collection for this project, Zack says, was only possible thanks to members of his Muhuru Bay-based research team (from left to right): John Omondi, [Zack], Benson Ojwang and Samson Ochieng.

How did Zack get "hooked" on WISER? Listen to his story:

"I hope to share the data from this study with local community partners, such as WISER International and its network. I'm excited about the opportunity for this work to serve as a baseline assessment of WISER's effectiveness as an education and health intervention and for the research to spark further program development to assist young women outside of WISER's current reach." —Zack

ELLE Gault completed a critical analysis of the efficacy of mental health task-shifting models in Haiti and Nepal.

Elle identified task-shifting as a critical delivery care model for mental health and investigated what made this model successful in post-earthquake sites. She found that previous mental health infrastructure in Nepal established by international organizations became an important determining factor for successful mental health interventions, but both Haiti and Nepal will need to generate their own training and credentialing systems in order to see long-term sustainable mental health care. Her advisor was Deborah Jenson, professor of French, romance studies and global health and director of the Franklin Humanities Institute.

Elle took this photo on her most recent trip to Haiti.

"My most compelling takeaway from this project is the complicated construction of the term 'layperson.' The international community has been able to determine what and who is important in low-income health care delivery models, which is emphasized by the abstract term." —Elle

Michael Hu assessed the determinants of water contamination and possible effects on infectious diseases such as malaria and diarrhea in a rural parish in Uganda.

Michael looked at water quality at all points along the water acquisition to point of use continuum, what factors might affect that water quality, and how water quality and sanitation relate to malaria and diarrhea. He used a combination of surveying, mapping and field water testing to assess water quality, water access/distances and sanitation factors and behaviors. Michael's advisor was Sumi Ariely, assistant professor of global health.

This photo was taken during Michael's Student Research Training (SRT) experience in Uganda, where he collected the data for his thesis project. (Far left) Garrett Berk, one of Michael's SRT teammates, and Michael (far right) with members of one of the village health teams.

"MY ultimate goal for this project is to improve the health of parish residents by mitigating poor sanitation and water contamination. I hope my research findings will be useful in the future to accomplish this goal." —Michael

Jenny Li studied the Present and Future Possibilities of a New Distance-Learning Advanced Degree Program for Promoting Workforce Sustainability of Nurse Anesthetists in Ghana.

Jenny described the role of anesthesia delivery within a health systems context, comparing Ghana’s approach in developing the nurse anesthetist profession with other national approaches to address national crises in staffing of anesthesia providers. She also explored distance-based education as a strategy for promoting health workforce sustainability and proposed possible solutions to challenges in this educational platform. Jenny's advisors were assistant professor of global health Sumi Ariely, assistant professor of nursing Brett Morgan and professor of medicine and global health Dennis Clements.

This photo shows the members of Jenny's Student Research Training (SRT) team in Ghana with the Medical Director of Sunyani Regional Hospital. (Left to right) Ethan Levine, Jenny, the medical director, Sam Zepeda and John Victor Alencar.

While in Ghana, Jenny created several videos documenting her experience in Ghana. In this video, she shares her reflections on her experience working with nurse anesthetists and what the research opportunity meant to her.

"Everything I've collected belongs not to me, but to our Ghanaian friends who so generously gifted us with their time and insights. My greatest hope is that what I've produced this year can be given back to the people and communities we visited and be useful to them." —Jenny

Taylor Trentadue conducted A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Gait Biomechanics and Musculoskeletal Health in Madagascar.

Taylor was interested in understanding how musculoskeletal conditions contribute to the rising burden of chronic, non-communicable diseases in Madagascar. Her goal was to determine the prevalence of joint pathology in the lower extremity through analyzing the vertical ground reaction force. She found an unexpectedly high prevalence of atypical gait patterns within the sample, as well as differences in the shape of the force curves. Taylor's advisor was Charles Nunn, professor of evolutionary anthropology and global health.

This photo shows Taylor (blue shirt) and David Samson (orange hat), both members of the “Shining Evolutionary Light on Global Health Challenges” Bass Connections team, embedding the force platform in the ground in Madagascar for the first time.

"The findings from my research underline the importance of musculoskeletal health in a global health context. Musculoskeletal health is among the foremost contributors to years lived with disability, and this project emphasizes the interconnectedness between self-reported pain and biomechanical functioning in the lower extremity." —Taylor

Other thesis projects

  • PARTH CHODAVADIA evaluated the relationship between physical health, mental health and academic performance on an orphaned and vulnerable population in New Delhi, India (Advisor: Sumi Ariely, professor of global health)
  • LAURIE HWANG compared French and U.S. health research on the neurodevelopmental and epigenetic effects of tobacco exposure on vulnerable populations (Advisor: Deborah Jenson, professor of French, romance studies and global health and director of the Franklin Humanities Institute)
  • MADELAINE KATZ evaluated the impact of a primary school intervention on reproductive health and well-being for girls post-primary in rural Kenya (Advisor: Sherryl Brovermann, associate professor of biology and global health)
  • NASH MEPUKORI explored whether the Alternative Rite of Passage program could be effective in abandoning female genital cutting, using a case study of the Samburu of Kenya (Advisor: David Boyd, associate professor of global health)
  • JULIA TUTTLE studied the product development partnership model for neglected disease drug development, using the Drugs for Neglected Disease Initiative (DNDi) as a case study. (Advisor: Catherine Admay, professor of public policy and DGHI affiliate faculty member)

Photo: Parth Chodavadia working with children at Udayan Care, an NGO where he conducted his research through the Student Research Training (SRT) program last summer.

Please join us in honoring these ten students and their contributions to global health research during their time at duke!

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