Four PhD Students Selected as Global Health Doctoral Scholars

March 07, 2017

Four Duke doctoral students have been selected to join the Global Health Doctoral Scholars program at the Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI), bringing the current cohort total to 15 scholars.

Through the Doctoral Scholars program, Duke PhD candidates from various disciplines conduct in-depth research on a topic that straddles their primary discipline and global health. This year’s new scholars include students from psychology and neuroscience, biomedical engineering and public policy.

Each scholar is mentored by a DGHI faculty member. The mentor collaborates with the scholar on planning and conducting global health research and provides career development and other opportunities to help the scholar prepare for a career in global health.

“We’re extremely pleased with the opportunity to add four interdisciplinary doctoral students,” said Kathleen Sikkema, director of doctoral studies at DGHI. “The Doctoral Scholars program creates a unique opportunity for students who would otherwise not be connected to each other to build the global health community at Duke.”


Second-year PhD student, Clinical Psychology, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience

  • Emily_CherenackUndergraduate Degree: BA, Psychology, Barnard College of Columbia University 
  • Global Health Area of Interest: Development of community-based mental health interventions that address psychosocial sources of risk and resilience. 
  • Doctoral Scholar Research: Study how stress and coping among adolescent girls during puberty impacts mental health, sexual risk, and reproductive health in high-risk, low-resource environments.
  • DGHI Mentor: Kathleen Sikkema, professor of psychology and neuroscience, global health and psychiatry and behavioral sciences; director of the DGHI global mental health initiative

“Research on mental among adolescent girls in low-resource settings is often overlooked,” said Cherenack. “The Doctoral Scholars program gives me a unique opportunity to address this research gap and work to improve the lives of women and girls by combining my focus on clinical psychology with training in global health.”


Third-year PhD student, Clinical Psychology, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience

  • Elsa_FriisMaster’s Degree: MSc-GH, Duke University 
  • Undergraduate Degree: BS, Neuroscience and Psychology, Washington and Lee University
  • Global Health Area of Interest: Development and dissemination of culturally grounded, community-based mental health interventions in developing countries. 
  • Doctoral Scholar Research: Use mobile technology to facilitate the dissemination of a family therapy intervention in Eldoret, Kenya.
  • DGHI Mentor: Eve Puffer, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience and global health


Third-year PhD student, Biomedical Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering

  • Robert_MorhardMaster’s Degree: MS, Biomedical Engineering, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
  • Undergraduate Degree: BS, Materials Science and Engineering with double major in Biomedical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Global Health Area of Interest: The use of biomedical engineering to better understand and solve problems related to global health.
  • Doctoral Scholar Research: Create a low-cost surgical alternative for tumor treatment appropriate for use in resource-limited settings through the modification of ethanol ablation.
  • DGHI Mentor: Nimmi Ramanujam, professor, biomedical engineering and global health

“The Doctoral Scholars program helps me understand the broader context of my work to increase access to effective cancer care,” said Morhard. “Being at the interface of global health and biomedical engineering gives me a new perspective to better tackle healthcare issues globally.” 


Third-year PhD candidate, public policy, Sanford School of Public Policy
Medical student (anticipated graduation 2019), Duke University School of Medicine

  • Joshua_RivenbarkUndergraduate Degree: BS, Biochemistry, Iowa State University
  • Global Health Area of Interest: How policies influence the experiences of childhood and adolescence and, in turn, shape long-term adult health.   
  • Doctoral Scholar Research: Investigate experiences of stigma and discrimination among institution- and community-based orphans across five countries over time and examine how those experiences relate to health behaviors and well-being. 
  • DGHI Mentor: Kathryn Whetten, professor, public policy, nursing, community and family medicine and global health; director, Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research

”The Doctoral Scholars program provides a wonderful opportunity to apply my medical and research training into the global health context in depth, building relevant experience and focus for a career in global health research,” said Rivenbark. 

Learn more about the Global Health Doctoral Scholars program.

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Doctoral Scholars 2016 Cohort
A few members of the Doctoral Scholars program pose for a group photo last spring.

The Doctoral Scholars program helps me understand the broader context of my work to increase access to effective cancer care.

Robert Morhard, doctoral scholar

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