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Global Health Projects Featured Prominently among Bass Connections Awards

April 16, 2018

Bass Connections, a university-wide interdisciplinary student research program, recently awarded grants to two Duke graduate students and ten undergraduates to pursue faculty-mentored research projects this summer and next year. Five of the seven funded projects are related to global health.

Bass Connections follow-on student research awards provide support for students who want to further pursue an aspect of their project team’s work. Funds may be used to support expenses such as travel, equipment and other research needs.

Award recipients with global health-related projects include:

Lillian Blanchard, Sahil Sandhu, Jacqueline Xu

Lillian, Sahil, JacquelineLillian Blanchard ’19, Sahil Sandhu ’20 and Jacqueline Xu ’19 plan to design and implement a “Help Desk” initiative in the Duke Health system, which will connect patients with community partner organizations that meet patients’ social and legal needs. This project continues the mission of the Global Alliance on Disability and Health Innovation (GANDHI) team, through which Blanchard, Sandhu and Xu have been researching the services and supports needed for patients to achieve their greatest quality of life during the transition from hospital to home. They will be mentored by DGHI affiliate Janet Bettger.

Project description:

Addressing the social determinants of health, such as food security, housing conditions, employment and education, is a critical step in reducing health disparities. Most health systems, however, lack infrastructure and incentives to manage patients’ social needs. To achieve health equity and reduce costs, we must make the crucial link between health care and community and social services through new, innovative health models. Our goal is to implement an Accountable Health Community model in the Duke Health system and create a Duke Help Desk, a community-based care model for social needs.


Linh Bui, Rob Steilberg, Kate Watkins

Linh, Rob, KateAs members of the mHealth for Better Routine Immunization Data in Honduras team, Linh Bui ’20, Rob Steilberg ’18 and Kate Watkins ’19 have been working to develop and implement a mobile health (mHealth) application for capturing and managing vaccination data for vaccinators in Roatán, Honduras. Their follow-on project is designed to assess and strengthen social support networks among migrant communities in Roatán in order to help families access vaccination clinics and thereby improve child vaccination rates. They will be mentored by DGHI research scholar Lavanya Vasudevan.

Project description:

Insecurity, extortion, intimidation and killings have forced many Hondurans to migrate from the mainland to the Honduran island of Roatán. This large population of Hispanic migrants have settled in a community known as La Colonia hoping to rebuild their lives and regain security. However, there is a discrepancy in healthcare, especially in child vaccination rates, between migrant Hondurans and islanders. We want to investigate whether this is due to a lack of social support networks in the community and plan to collect more data to discern whether these networks need strengthening. Through this, we hope to develop a solution to help migrant mainlanders get better access to vaccination clinics thus providing timely vaccinations for children.


Chinemerem Nwosu

ChinemeremChinemerem Nwosu ’19 is a member of the Interventions Improving Neurosurgery Patient Outcomes in Uganda team, which is working with Duke Global Neurosurgery and Neuroscience and Mulago National Referral Hospital in Kampala, Uganda, to develop interventions to improve neurosurgical patient outcomes. Her follow-on project will include a study designed to evaluate the impact of family caregiver health literacy on patient outcomes. Her faculty mentor is Duke neurosurgeon and DGHI professor Michael Haglund.

Project description:

I developed a deep passion for improving health outcomes and health systems in Sub-Saharan Africa after my experiences growing up in Lagos forced me to think critically about determinants of health and their relationships to quality of life. This study will strongly aid my team’s project, which seeks to design and measure the impact of educational interventions to improve health outcomes. The findings will provide insight to determine the most cost-efficient and culturally-appropriate ways to address health education needs and develop educational materials that can potentially be adopted in low-income country healthcare settings.


Tony Pham

TonyTony Pham is a psychiatry and global health resident and Master of Science in Global Health candidate. A member of the Global Mental Health Program, a Bass Connections team working to advance integrated, context-specific approaches to mental health, he will explore the intersection of traditional healing and mental well-being in rural Nepal. His faculty mentor is DGHI adjunct professor Brandon Kohrt.

Project description:

Despite its global and cultural significance, research into the relationship between ethnospychology and mental illness is quite scarce. This study will explore the intersection of traditional healing and mental well-being in Nepal, a country known for its traditional healers, in order to form a more culturally informed perspective on reducing mental health disparities.


Samantha Sadler

SamanthaSamantha Sadler ’19 is a member of the Interventions Improving Neurosurgery Patient Outcomes in Uganda team, which is working with Duke Global Neurosurgery and Neuroscience (DGNN) and Mulago National Referral Hospital (MNRH) in Kampala, Uganda, to develop interventions to improve neurosurgical patient outcomes. She will pursue the construction of an infection care protocol for the neurosurgical ward at MNRH that is designed to reduce the impact of limited resources on effective infection care techniques. Her faculty mentor is Duke neurosurgeon and DGHI professor Michael Haglund.

Project description:

This project has been a personal goal of mine since I started working with DGNN. Generating an infection care protocol for the MNRH through extensive, bidirectional communication takes a major systematic step toward securing a sustainable future of improved patient outcomes. I hope this is the first part of a much longer process that can lead to the formulation of a broadly-applicable template for an infection care protocol that easily enables context-specific alterations and includes components unique to cultural norms and expectations.

Learn more about the follow-on grants and recipients.

This article was adapted from an article originally published on the Bass Connections website and was republished with permission.

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Images of Grant Recipients

Bass Connections follow-on student research awards provide support for students who want to further pursue an aspect of their project team’s work.

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