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Where Are They Now? As DGHI’s Master of Science in Global Health program turns 10, alums and students reflect on their DGHI experience.

By Susan Gallagher

In Fall 2018, the Duke Global Health Institute enrolled its 10th cohort of students in the Master of Science in Global Health program.

The true measure of the program’s impact is in its students and alumni, who have landed in a vast array of roles in NGOs, international agencies, universities, clinics and other settings.

To commemorate our 10th anniversary, we reconnected with eight of our graduates—one from each year since 2011—and two current students, to find out what they’re up to and how their DGHI experience helped shape their global health path. We hope you enjoy their stories as much as we do!

WENFENG GONG, MS’11

Gates Fellow, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

I conduct internal research and pilot studies to support strategy shaping and grant-making activities at the Foundation. My current focus is to improve routine immunization coverage and equality in low- and middle-income countries through better collection and use of data.

What was your biggest takeaway from the program that still resonates with you in your global health work today?

The best place to learn global health is in the field, as no data analytics makes sense without understanding the settings where the data are generated and used, and no policy study is concrete without knowing the people who implement the policy and who take the impacts. DGHI taught me to always keep the field and the people in mind during research and practice.

DGHI taught me to always keep the field and the people in mind during research and practice.

What are the biggest global health issues you’re working to address in your current role?

We have never seen a better time in history when big data are being produced and used for global health decision making, both at global and national levels. Yet data from observational, administrative or routinely collected sources are often inaccessible, incomplete, biased and potentially misleading. To fully leverage this new opportunity for global health, I’m working with experts at the Foundation and from partner organizations to explore new policy and technical approaches.

Pictured: This photo was taken in Salima, Malawi, when Wenfeng was working with a field team for Duke Center for Health Policy & Inequalities Research to measure the intervention coverage of a community-based orphans and vulnerable children development support program. (Wenfeng is third from left.)

ANDRIA RUSK, MS’12

Co-Founder and Co-Director of Global Public Health, Assistant Professor of Global Public Health, Dominican University of California

I co-direct the global public health undergraduate degree program, design curriculum, oversee faculty and teach in the program. I’m continuing my research in malaria treatment seeking behavior, focusing on malaria case management in the private sector.

What was your biggest takeaway from the program that still resonates with you in your global health work today?

I learned so much in this program, it’s nearly impossible to narrow it down to one takeaway. The field experience was critical for me. I learned so much during my time in Kenya, and I’m still drawing from that experience. The opportunity to design and act as the principal investigator for my own study, with the crucial oversight of and input from DGHI faculty, taught me valuable lessons about conducting research in the field.

I also learned an incredible amount from Dr. Brian Pence and the statistics training in the program—namely, that I’m not bad at math! Who knew? But more importantly, I learned how valuable it is to be able to run your own statistics, rather than farming it out to others. I now consider the analytic approach with the study design, rather than afterward, and my findings are more reliable as a result.

How has your view of global health changed since you graduated from the program?

I came to global health, like many others, with the perspective that its focus was on international communities. While at DGHI, I learned that global health is truly defined by its multi-disciplinary approach to problem solving, admitting that unilateral decision making is rarely sustainable or culturally appropriate and that its focus is on the peoples of all nations.

We can heal the past and build the future at the same time.

I have since come to view global health from a one-health perspective, where the voices of the community must speak loudest; where politicians, economists, lawyers, doctors, first responders, anthropologists, activists, environmentalists and others must come together to empower those communities to find lasting solutions to problems; and where development in well-being and in health is encouraged. Health is not a zero-sum game. We can heal the past and build the future at the same time.

Andria (left) working with Global Brigades teaching dental hygiene and collecting public health data in Estelí, Nicaragua.

Pictured to right: Andria (far left) taking a breather from collecting field data on antimalarials with fellows from Yale, Purdue, Indiana University and Columbia.

CHRISTOPHER DEBOER MS’13

Year 2 Resident Physician in General Surgery, UCSF East Bay Department of General Surgery, Highland Hospital, Oakland, CA, and UCSF Center for Global Surgical Studies, San Francisco, CA

What was your biggest takeaway from the program that still resonates with you in your global health work today?

The biggest takeaway, and most valuable part of my DGHI experience, was the lessons and problem solving skills I learned while doing six months of funded field research in Uganda. Not only have I applied these to subsequent health research projects, but I also use these skills everyday working in a resource-limited county hospital in Oakland, California.

I have found that my best patient care is achieved when I consider the social and economic forces that influence my patients ...

My aim is to be a surgeon, but I have found that my best patient care is achieved when I consider the social and economic forces that influence my patients and their surgical outcomes and predisposition to surgical disease. I would not have this perspective without DGHI.

What are the biggest global health issues you’re working to address in your current role?

I’m very invested in the emerging concept of global surgery. I’m currently working on a project examining cost-efficacy of general surgery in Uganda. In addition, traumatic violence prevention and the role of the trauma surgeon in this, is a growing area of interest, particularly considering the saliency of this topic in the current political discourse surrounding gun violence.

Pictured: Christopher (second from right) with fellow Ugandan surgery residents who collaborated on a study examining cost-effectiveness of emergency general surgery procedures at a district hospital in Soroti, Uganda. The study is being completed under the guidance of the UCSF Center for Global Surgical Studies.

JUNJIAN GAOSHAN, MS’14

Asia Foundation Development Fellow, National Program Office, United Nations Population Fund China Office

Recently named one of the Asia Society’s Asia 21 Young Leaders

I manage UNFPA China’s strategic work on promoting adolescent and youth development, in particular on the issues of adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights. Working with various partners, including the Government of China, I’m leading efforts to promote comprehensive sexuality education, advance youth-friendly health services and build youth leadership and participation in policy making.

What’s your favorite DGHI memory?

The most unforgettable memory at DGHI was working with Professor David Boyd as his teaching assistant for Global Health 101. That role was not simply a teaching assistant providing logistical support, but rather an intensive learning experience for me. Through contributing to Professor Boyd’s lectures, I got a chance to dive into more interesting reading on global health. It also enabled me to think innovatively about global health challenges when interacting with young students and Professor Boyd.

What was your biggest takeaway from the program that still resonates with you in your global health work today?

This experience has become a cornerstone to what I’m doing right now. Lifelong lessons I learned at DGHI include: (1) Trust young people and support their ideas, (2) Innovative solutions are fundamental to global health challenges, (3) Learn by doing and do by learning, and (4) Dare to speak and dare to share.

Innovative solutions are fundamental to global health challenges.
Junjian (far right) facilitating a national youth leadership and advocacy training in Weihai city of Shandong Province.

DOROTHY MANGALE, MS’15

Research Coordinator of the Childhood Acute Illness and Nutrition (CHAIN) Network

Assistant Site Coordinator, CHAIN–Migori, Migori County Hospital, Kenya

University of Washington

I coordinate implementation of a prospective cohort study being conducted across nine sites in six countries (Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso and Pakistan). The study aims to dial down on the causes of death, poor nutritional recovery and risk of de-admission among acutely ill, malnourished children in low- and middle-income countries. This fall, I’m beginning a PhD program in implementation science in the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington.

What was your biggest takeaway from the program that still resonates with you in your global health work today?

My biggest takeaway was learning that the most sustainable changes come from the grassroots. I learned this through my experiences on the ground starting in Cambodia and now extending to the countries where I’ve continued to work in my current job. People experiencing the worst health statistics are always innovating to try to alleviate health problems.

For the global health community to effectively leverage all the available resources, both financial and human, it will be increasingly important to pay attention to what local communities are saying and doing about prevailing issues such as childhood malnutrition or the still high rates of death from pneumonia and diarrheal diseases. Paying attention to local communities will unlock opportunities to reach those at the last mile.

Paying attention to local communities will unlock opportunities to reach those at the last mile.

How has your view of global health changed since you graduated from the program?

My views haven’t changed so much but have become more nuanced. Things that I thought were simple no longer appear that way. I’ve continued to see just how interconnected global health is with factors such as globalization, climate change and fluctuations of markets, among others. These factors play a big role in how global health decisions are made and—particularly in low- and middle-income countries—how health priorities are set or strategies are implemented.

Pictured: Dorothy (second from left, bottom row) and the CHAIN–Migori team after training.

SHANNON KINCAIDE GODBOUT, MS’16

Social Research Associate, Chatham County Public Health Department, North Carolina

I collect, monitor, analyze and report on local health data to ensure the county takes a data-driven approach to address community needs. A primary element of my role has been to develop and implement an innovative, longitudinal community cohort to collect timely local-level data to monitor disease burden, health, community risk factors and social determinants. We use these data to understand the impacts of current interventions within the county, track how the health of the community changes over time and gather representative community input to inform future public health initiatives.

What was your biggest takeaway from the program that still resonates with you in your global health work today?

The program emphasizes the importance of community-driven work in order to achieve sustainable, meaningful change. Through our work in Chatham County, the community identifies health priorities, and the county mobilizes resources to address these identified issues. This allows us to gain buy-in for our work, both with residents and elected officials, build new partnerships in the community, and move the needle on issues that have a substantive impact on the health and well-being of community members.

What are the biggest global health issues you’re working to address in your current role?

Much of my current work involves systems-level policy change aimed at impacting social determinants of health. To do so, we have been intentional about examining our work through a health equity lens. Though Chatham is one of the healthiest counties in North Carolina, we also have some of the largest health disparities. Taking a systems-level approach to existing disparities allows us to address issues in a way that will have sustainable impact, and addressing upstream determinants impacts a vast range of sub-optimal health outcomes.

Taking a systems-level approach to existing disparities allows us to address issues in a way that will have sustainable impact.
Shannon (far left) discussing the role of data in refining and sustaining initiatives at the Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge Institute in Nashville, Tennessee.

Pictured to right: Shannon (second from right) greeting local partners at the inaugural Chatham Health Alliance Interagency Fair.

ELIZABETH MONAHAN, MS’17

Nonprofit Management and Global Health Fellow at Timmy Global Health (recently completed fellowship)

At Timmy Global Health (TGH), an organization that runs medical service trips in Guatemala and Ecuador, I ran the global health program for high school students in Indianapolis, helped college students prepare for their service trip and recruit a medical professional team, helped college students stay connected to the community in which they served throughout the academic year, and ran the scholarship program to help college students participate in our trips.

What was your biggest takeaway from the program that still resonates with you in your global health work today?

Taking the health systems class was extremely helpful for my work at TGH, which has programs in Ecuador, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. These three countries have different health care systems, and TGH has different relationships with the national governments and regional governments in the communities where we work. This class gave me a great base on which to build my understanding of how TGH works in each area and how our medical clinics play into the health care coverage in each country.

How has your view of global health changed since you graduated from the program?

Working at TGH, I had the opportunity to work with many high school students. I saw the benefit of engaging high school students in global health early on in their academic careers. Many of the high school seniors who attended TGH’s service trip to the Dominican Republic have joined the TGH chapters at their universities. Most of them are not majoring in a health-related field, but they were able to see that the global health field needs people with all different academic backgrounds.

Empowering the next generation of global health leaders is essential to the success of the global health field.

I wish there were more global health programs for high school students because I believe that empowering the next generation of global health leaders is essential to the success of the global health field, and the earlier that students can engage with the field, the better.

Elizabeth relaxing with the llamas at Machu Picchu after a summer of bug trapping in Peru.

Pictured to right: Elizabeth (blue shirt) and other members of the 2015-2016 Bass Connections team in Peru wearing bug nets in preparation for trapping mosquitoes.

KEVIN RAMSEUR, MS’18

Senior Clinical Research Specialist, Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development, Duke University School of Medicine

I coordinate on-site preparation during participant visits for a study analyzing the effects of Mesenchymal Stromal Cells on symptoms and severity of Autism Spectrum Disorder in young children. My responsibilities include attending logistics meetings with faculty and medical teams, as well as assisting with clinical assessments.

Who was your favorite professor?

Dr. Jay Pearson taught me invaluable lessons about social epidemiology and intersectional identity within the context of population health. His invigorating lectures and relatable interaction style made in-class discussions and midterm papers the highlight of the semester. The knowledge generated in that class surrounding feminism, gender identity and health outcomes helped me understand where I see my future in mental health as I prepare to apply for doctoral programs.

The knowledge generated in that class ... helped me understand where I see my future in mental health.

What are the biggest global health issues you’re working to address in your current role?

Early detection and early intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In my current role, I contribute on various clinical trials as we try to find ways to increase access to ASD diagnosis and treatment in low-resource settings. We’re testing a smartphone app that uses eye-tracking technology to detect symptoms of ASD and a caregiver coaching approach to early ASD intervention.

Pictured: Kevin standing in Cape L’Aghulas, the southernmost tip of the African continent and the place where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic Ocean.

ASSUMPTA NANTUME, MS’19

Second-Year Master of Science in Global Health Student

I have a strong passion for infectious disease epidemiology, which I’ve been able to explore further as a student at DGHI. For my thesis project, I’m examining the relationship between routine use of hydroxyurea and malaria prevalence among children with sickle cell anemia in Homa Bay, Kenya.

What has been your biggest takeaway from the program so far?

It’s impossible to work in the global health field without understanding data. My biggest takeaway from this program so far has been learning how to work with large data sets, as well as developing the technical skills and competency to analyze, interpret and present information in a meaningful way.

Who has been your favorite professor?

My mentor, Professor Steve Taylor, has been my biggest inspiration. He is very passionate about his work and takes a keen interest in all his mentees. He rarely just feeds us answers, but encourages us to explore different approaches to solving problems. He also fosters a strong collaborative spirit in his lab and creates a wonderful environment for us to seek the kind of feedback that we need to take our projects to the next level.

Professor Taylor rarely just feeds us answers, but encourages us to explore different approaches to solving problems.
Assumpta presenting her research to DGHI director Chris Plowe and other Duke visitors in Webuye, Kenya.

Pictured to left: Assumpta (far left) with her Duke and Kenyan collaborators. Duke faculty, leadership and students in back row: DGHI professor Wendy Prudhomme-O'Meara; Chris Plowe, DGHI director; Gene Washington, Chancellor for Health Affairs at Duke University and President and CEO of the Duke University Health System; DGHI professor Steve Taylor; and DGHI doctoral scholar Elsa Friis Healy.

BRIDGET ROGERS, MS’20

First-Year Master of Science in Global Health Student

I’m interested in the effects of environmental change and pollution on health, especially the effects of poor ambient air quality.

Why did you choose Duke’s Master of Science in Global Health program?

I chose Duke’s program so I would have the opportunity to gain research design and analysis skills and conduct international research. I also like the small cohort size that allows for individual attention from program staff and professors.

What drew you to the field of global health?

I was drawn to global health because the field is broad and addresses significant, worldwide issues while also allowing for individual researchers to have a very specific niche. I love that global health uses an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to bring people with a variety of skills together to address health concerns on a large scale.

I love that global health uses an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach.

Pictured: Bridget (center) talking with two of her DGHI classmates, Kelsey Landrum (left) and Andrea Koris outside of DGHI.

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