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These 2018 Grads Are Applying their Global Health Degrees in the Real World

April 19, 2019

By Susan Gallagher

It’s that time of year again, when graduating students—those who aren’t diving right into another degree program—start shifting their focus from exams to employment. And Duke global health graduates are no different: each year, they pursue a range of opportunities, from research assistants at Duke to program specialists in global NGOs to roles outside the global health arena. 

We recently caught up with a few 2018 graduates to learn about their post-Duke professional paths, hear how they’re applying their DGHI education and solicit their career advice for graduating seniors and master’s students. Here’s what they had to say.

Undergraduates

 
Matina KakalisMATINA KAKALIS
Research Associate, Health Innovations Lab and Policy Program (since June 2018)
New America
Washington, DC
 

Describe your role.
I coordinate the program’s 53% Initiative and upcoming Public Health Technology Hackathon. My role is a mix of research, planning, and proposal development. 
 
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Undoubtedly, my favorite part of this role is participating in an innovative approach to health problem solving. Multidisciplinary collaborations with technologists, futurists, engineers, design experts, government officials and community stakeholders have broadened my horizons and underscored the importance of employing a “health in all policies” approach. I feel grateful to learn from a wide variety of perspectives I would not have encountered if I did not venture outside of biological research. 

How are you applying your Duke global health education to your job?
The semester-long senior capstone best prepared me for the level of independent work I’m doing at New America. Going through the proposal development process and moving one vague research question to a well-researched funding proposal is a large portion of my work now. Pulling together my capstone gave me a constructive “trial run,” which helped me hone the stamina and critical thinking required to make this transition. 

What’s your number one piece of job-seeking advice for soon-to-be grads?
Be open to trying something new! Now is a great time to explore a new interest, even if you feel like a fish out of water. The learning curve may be steep but it can also be very fun and rewarding. 


Julia KaufmanJULIA KAUFMAN
Research Associate (since August 2018)
The Ihangane Project
​Ruli, Rwanda
 

Describe your role.
I lead program development for a new Hope Initiative for mothers with HIV and their frontline health workers to promote hope and improve quality of care and health outcomes. I create and manage the research protocol, ethical clearances, data collection tools, work plans and research reports and manuscripts. I also manage relationships with stakeholders, including the Ministry of Health and partner NGOs, to ensure interests are aligned and to share our findings through presentations and written materials. 

What do you enjoy most about your job?
Collaborating with and learning from my colleagues, who bring their incredible knowledge of the community and local context to the project.

How are you applying your Duke global health education to your job?
I am constantly applying my knowledge of research methods. Throughout my first few weeks there, while planning the cross-cultural adaptation and psychometric evaluation of a survey instrument, I was constantly re-reading Dr. Eric Green’s textbook for global health research. I also approach cross-cultural communication and collaboration with intentional flexibility, adaptability and humility—skills that I believe were fostered by DGHI. 

What’s your number one piece of job-seeking advice for soon-to-be grads?
Try to approach every opportunity with gratitude. We are so lucky to be doing global health work. I think that my gratitude motivates me to be as effective and impactful as possible in my work.


Graduates
 

Margaret LillieMARGARET LILLIE
Associate in Research, Evidence Lab (since June 2018)
Duke Global Health Institute
Durham, North Carolina
 

Describe your role.
I manage studies evaluating early childhood development and maternal mental health programs run by Catholic Relief Services in Kenya and Ghana. I also have gotten the opportunity to follow up on tasks related to my master’s field work in Tanzania, where I worked on an adolescent health study.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love the relationship building. I get to work with teams in Kenya, Ghana and Tanzania. We talk every week over Skype and I get to visit a few times a year to do study check-ins and data collection trainings. The work is not always easy, but the relationships and collaboration with the teams make it worth it.

How are you applying your Duke global health education to your job?
I wear a lot of hats and the wide range of courses I took and my experiences through DGHI made me better equipped to take on many roles. My research assistantship allowed me to gain knowledge about the many stages of the research process (from IRB to data cleaning and management), I still refer to resources from my biostatistics and epidemiology classes, I am better equipped to think ethically about the research I am involved in and I have better understanding about the importance of engaging stakeholders in all parts of the research process so that research can make an impact.

What’s your number one piece of job-seeking advice for soon-to-be grads?
Look for a job in a place that cares about your professional development—it is so important to have that support for your future goals and ambitions!


Arun AugustineARUN AUGUSTINE
Project Manager (since November 2018)
Epic System Corporation
Verona, Wisconsin 
 

Describe your role.
More than 50% of the U.S. population receives care from a healthcare organization that uses Epic as its Electronic Health Records system (including Duke and UNC). I partner directly with healthcare organizations installing Epic as a project manager and guide their IT staff and clinical staff in system build, configuration, testing, training and deployment. I work directly with the organization's counterparts to ensure that the installations are on time and on budget and deliver on the items that the organization had requested. My primary expertise lies within Epic’s outpatient specialties applications (Ophthalmology, Orthopedics and Medical Transplant). 

What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy the opportunity it provides to build relationships with diverse stakeholders and colleagues (e.g., IT staff at a healthcare organization, clinical operations personnel, physicians, nurses, and support staff).  The role also offers a nice blend of traditional project management (budgets, timelines, escalations and personnel management) and technical skills (system configuration and data analytics). 

How are you applying your Duke global health education to your job?
Much of my fieldwork in Kenya with Dr. Eric Green involved high level project management and thinking through the phases of the projects (development of survey tools, training of surveyors, field testing and data collections). I took additional courses with the Duke Margolis Center for Health Policy during my second year and having that policy background about U.S. population health has helped me navigate difficult conversations with stakeholders when I’m visiting a healthcare organization. Additionally, Dr. Kevin Schulman’s health systems course has also been helpful here. 

What’s your number one piece of job-seeking advice for soon-to-be grads?
Recognize that there are many transferable skills that you gain from your DGHI education that can apply to a variety of positions (research, administrative and industry positions in healthcare and public health). Don't be afraid to network and ask others about their career path. 


Chisom NwaneriCHISOM NWANERI
Executive Education Teaching Learning Officer (since August 2018)
University of Global Health Equity (UGHE)
Kigali, Rwanda 

Describe your role.
Our department (Executive Education) curates and delivers certificate courses focused on health systems strengthening, leadership and management in global health delivery. In my role (amongst other things), I currently work on curating the course schedule, syllabus and site visits to relevant health-related institutions in Rwanda. 

What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy the people I work with, who are also passionate about developing leaders in global health delivery.  Furthermore, the dynamic environment of this growing university fosters innovation and creativity amongst the faculty and staff who are equipping current and future global health leaders to promote change in global health delivery. 

How are you applying your Duke global health education to your job?
DGHI helped strengthened my global health knowledge base, which has been crucial in fulfilling my role of curating the syllabus for our global health delivery certificate courses. Furthermore, I was recently asked to assist in developing a global health policy course for our Masters in Global Health Delivery Program. Thanks to taking Dr. Gavin Yamey’s global health policy graduate course and serving as a teaching assistant for his undergraduate course, I was able to successfully contribute to developing UGHE’s global health policy course.  

What’s your number one piece of job-seeking advice for soon-to-be grads?
Tap into your professional and personal networks! You never know who knows whom and how they can contribute to your next move. Take it one day at a time, but be consistent in the job application process. Lastly, be ready to step outside your comfort zone! Moving to Rwanda showed me that growth (both professional and personal) truly occurs at the edge of your comfort zone.

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Recent Grads Collage

Try to approach every opportunity with gratitude. We are so lucky to be doing global health work.

Julia Kaufman '18

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