Florence Tesha, originally from Moshi, Tanzania, started out as an economics major at Duke. “As much as I was interested in learning about economics, I felt that I was missing the passion and the personal drive” Tesha said. “So for my second semester, I decided to just try out different classes.”
That semester, Tesha joined the Global Health 101 class taught by David Boyd, the Hymowitz Professor of the Practice of Global Health. “Every class had its own energy, discoveries, hope about the possibilities and the things we can do ... and that is how I found my passion,” she reflected. “It felt like it was something already so deep in me that finally found its place.”
In fact, she remembers many of her global health courses fondly. “I enjoyed learning about gender and how it affects health with Dr. Melissa Watt, doing a malaria project with Dr. Randy Kramer, research projects with Dr. Gregory Gray, and the list goes on.” In the end, Tesha, who graduated in 2017, co-majored in global health and Chinese.
During her junior year, Tesha participated in a School for International Training study abroad program in Salvador, Brazil, in the midst of Brazil’s Zika outbreak. At the end of this program, students had to complete a final project on a topic of their choice. She focused on Zika virus and the role of community health workers in preventing Zika in the area, Cachoeira, Bahia. She was invited to a conference in Austria to present her findings, and her paper was also published in the Duke Student Global Health Review.
“Getting this international exposure made a huge impact on me,” Tesha recalled. “I felt that I was able to share and contribute to the knowledge and understanding of Zika, and if these findings reach the ‘right’ people, such as people in governments, they may factor into policy adjustments, like a ripple effect.”
The phrase “ripple effect” sums up Tesha’s global health passion. “Most of the time, we think about how we impact others in our community and in the world, but we sometimes forget to consider how our work affects us personally,” she reflected. “For me, the impact begins with oneself and then transmits to others—my work in global health has helped me see this connection.”
Tesha now works as a project manager for Redavia Rental Solar Company in Munich, Germany, which has two mini grid projects providing solar electricity to the rural areas of Tanzania through solar farms. People can connect to these farms to power their homes and businesses.
In addition to managing the operations and technology behind the mini grids, Tesha works to make the business commercially viable to attract investors and other entrepreneurs. “There’s a huge demand and market for energy in Tanzania and in Africa in general, where so many people live without power,” she noted.
Tesha and her team are working to prove how these projects can be profitable in hopes of increasing the number of solar mini grids Redavia provides.
Even though she’s not working in global health directly, Tesha applies a global health mindset to her work and sees the connection between energy availability and health. For example, she says, the electricity enables the community health workers to deliver babies safely even at night, and the dispensary can now properly store vaccines and medicine in a refrigerator.
“The global health program at Duke gave me a set of tools that I can apply, modify and expand on to make a positive impact on health, no matter what field I’m working in,” she said. “And to me, that’s absolutely invaluable.”
In addition to her global health “toolkit,” Tesha greatly appreciates the community among DGHI staff, faculty and students. “These are people who became mentors, friends and family,” Tesha said. “When my family came to my graduation, I wanted them to meet everyone at DGHI!”
Tesha isn’t sure yet where her global health path will take her. She’s taking her time figuring out her next steps as she nurtures her passions, builds new skills and explores potential future opportunities. Wherever she ends up, though, her global health mindset will guide her work.
The global health program at Duke gave me a set of tools that I can apply, modify and expand on to make a positive impact on health, no matter what field I’m working in.Florence Tesha T'17