DGHI Solicits International Travel Proposals for Global Health Projects

February 16, 2016

Peter Kussin, pulmonologist and professor of medicine at Duke, wanted to travel to Kenya to establish spirometric norms for Kenyan adults—a population that suffers from among the highest rates of obstructive lung diseases in the world. Daniel Rittschof, professor of marine science and conservation at Duke, wanted to travel to Indonesia to conduct a workshop for building a demonstration waste treatment project that would improve environmental and human health in the area.

What do these projects have in common? International travel grants from the Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI) helped bring both of them to fruition. DGHI is now seeking proposals from other Duke faculty for travel awards of up to $5,000 for global health research opportunities in low- or middle-income countries.

Proposals must reflect a focus on one or more of the DGHI research priorities and demonstrate potential for long-term external funding support. All Duke faculty members are eligible for the grant, with priority given to proposals from junior faculty and those who have never received a DGHI travel grant.

Read on to learn how two Duke professors used their travel grants in the past.

Defining Normal Function Is Critical to Better Pulmonary Care in Kenya

DGHI has been partnering with the Moi University School of Medicine and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret, Kenya, for a number of years, but in 2014, Peter Kussin, a Duke pulmonologist, sought funding from DGHI to help initiate the first collaboration between Duke’s division of pulmonary medicine and pulmonary faculty at these Kenyan institutions.

His project was a pilot study of the use of pulmonary function testing in Kenya and was the first known large-scale systematic approach to determining normal spirometry in that country. A multi-ethnic set of pulmonary function reference equations had recently been established, but some countries had begun to question their validity and application to their local populations. 

The project team included Devon Paul, a fellow in Duke’s division of pulmonary medicine. Paul is currently a global health fellow and Master of Science in Global Health student.

The study found that the Global Lung Initiative’s 2012 African American prediction equations were best able to predict normal forced vital capacity and forced expiratory volume in one second—key measurements in the diagnosis and management of patients with chronic lung disease. These findings will better inform the selection of reference equations for clinicians and researchers in the region.

Kussin and Paul have submitted a manuscript for publication and an abstract to the American Thoracic Society annual meeting. They’ll use this data to support the evaluation of a large random population based sample in the Eldoret area to ascertain the prevalence of chronic obstructive lung disease and asthma in the region. The study also strengthened Duke’s collaboration with Kenyan pulmonary colleagues—David Lagat, Lameck Diero and Francis Ogaro.

Professor Hopes to Minimize Health Risks in Indonesia with New Sanitation System

In 2015, marine science and conservation professor Daniel Rittschof sought to introduce a new sanitation technology to a rural community of 5,000 on the island of Barrang Lompo in South Sulawesi, Indonesia. He and his team, including global health doctoral scholar Aaron Forbis-Stokes, traveled there to lay the groundwork for the potential local adoption of the new sanitation system—from establishing feasibility to mapping the flow of waste products through the system to outlining a business model.

The system, developed in the lab of global health and engineering professor Marc Deshusses, is a simple, cheap and self-sustaining method of waste treatment that requires no energy inputs outside of organic waste. 

Using collected sewage and other organic waste, the system generates biogas while digesting waste. About 40 percent of the biogas is used for sterilization, and the remaining biogas can be used for energy generation and cooking—a major benefit in an area where electricity is available only part of each day from small scale generators.

“The workshop the grant enabled was absolutely essential to identify and develop the team, obtain input and buy-in from the community and grasp the scope of the issues,” said Rittschof. “We’ve worked in Indonesia for five years and finally have a team structure that enables this specific project to go forward.” 

The team is in process of identifying and applying for funds to implement a demonstration project on the island that would service 1,000 residents.

View the current request for travel grant proposals. The deadline to submit a proposal is March 7.

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Paul and Kussin
Global health fellow and Master of Science in Global Health student Devon Paul (left) and Peter Kussin, pulmonologist and professor of medicine, preparing to do spirometry.

The workshop the grant enabled was absolutely essential to identify and develop the team, obtain input and buy-in from the community and grasp the scope of the issues.

Daniel Rittschof, professor of marine science and conservation

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