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Bass Connections Seeking Proposals for New Projects

September 23, 2016

Bass Connections, a university-wide initiative that facilitates interdisciplinary teams in exploring societal challenges, is calling for proposals from Duke faculty and—for the first time—graduate and professional students, post-docs, trainees and fellows for new project teams starting in summer 2017 or the 2017-2018 academic year. 

Launched by a $50 million gift from Anne and Robert Bass in 2013, Bass Connections was created with the vision to create a distinctive new model for education that actively engages both graduate and undergraduate students to tackle some of the world’s unanswered questions. Projects are aligned with five themes from Duke’s top interdisciplinary institutes and initiatives: 

  • Global Health
  • Brain and Society
  • Information, Society and Culture
  • Education and Human Development
  • Energy 

Projects teams last between three and 18 months, and many incorporate a summer component. Teams have produced peer-reviewed journal articles, conference presentations, websites, mHealth interventions and educational materials. 

Bass Connections: Quick Facts

Bass Connection accepts between 40 and 60 projects each year across all five themes and awards an average budget of $20,000. 

Since the program’s inception, 32 of these teams, including 85 faculty members and 140 graduate and undergraduate students, have been funded or co-funded under the global health theme. These projects have spanned more than a dozen countries, including India, Peru, Madagascar, Jordan and the United States. 

Recent Global Health-Themed Projects

This academic year, global health faculty Janet Bettger and Catherine Staton are co-leading the Global Alliance on Disability and Health Innovation (GANDHI) Bass Connections team to examine life-altering disabilities from multiple perspectives and cultures. The project is part of a broader goal to develop innovative interdisciplinary approaches to bridge the gap from hospital to home for patients, strengthening health system and community collaboration to improve the quality of life for people newly living with disability. 

Last spring, the GANDHI leadership engaged an interdisciplinary group of Duke faculty to develop a framework to guide design and data collection efforts on how disabilities were managed across the world for people transitioning home from the hospital. Over the summer, students conducted pilot studies on stakeholder perspectives, available resources and health policies in Argentina, Uganda and Norway, respectively. This fall, team members are participating in a seminar course on life with disabilities and healthcare fragmentation around the globe, in which students are paired with partners in ten countries (China, Singapore, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Brazil, Argentina, Tanzania, Uganda and the U.S.) in order to produce a multi-country comparison on healthcare, policies, and stakeholder perspectives on improving the lives of people newly living with disabilities. 

“In just the last month we have learned from each other, shared knowledge from our different schools and perspectives, and have expanded our individual networks beyond our group,” said Bettger. “As a faculty member, engaging students, faculty and external collaborators in this model is the most rewarding work of my academic portfolio.”

The Bass team—including 22 students and more than a dozen faculty—will also be working this coming year to raise awareness of the challenges people around the globe face when they are discharged home from the hospital with new impairments and disabilities.

“As GANDHI’s project coordinator, I’ve had the opportunity to contribute to each step in GANDHI’s development,” said Michelle Roberts, a second-year Master of Science in Global Health student. “This project thinks beyond survival, to the very human aspect of patient care—his or her everyday life beyond diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation.”

To learn more about the project and read recent updates, visit their team website

Other 2016-17 Bass Connections in Global Health projects include:

  • Environmental Epidemiology in Latin America: Research and Policy Development to Reduce Chemical Exposures (Ecuador)
  • Global Mental Health Integrative Training Program (GMH-ITP) (Kenya, Nepal)
  • NC Medicaid Reform Advisory Team (United States) 
  • Cookstoves and Air Pollution in Madagascar: Finding Winning Solutions for Human Health and Biodiversity (Madagascar)
  • Human Health Risks, Environmental and Ecosystem Damage Associated with Contamination of Used Motor Oil at Auto-mechanic Villages in Ghana (Ghana)
  • Animal Waste Management and Global Health (United States)
  • POCkeT Colposcope: Increased Distribution and Adoption (Peru)
  • Spirituality, Self-management and Chronic Disease among Ethnic Groups of Robeson County, North Carolina (United States)

Learn more: 

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Hospital Italiano in Buenos Aires
This past summer, a Duke Bass Connections team examined life-altering disabilities from multiple perspectives and cultures. One of the 10 research sites was Hospital Italiano in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

As a faculty member, engaging students, faculty and external collaborators in this model is the most rewarding work of my academic portfolio.

Janet Bettger, DGHI affiliate faculty member

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