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Three DGHI Faculty and Students Receive CUGH Awards

March 16, 2018

Founding Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI) director Michael Merson, biomedical engineering and global health professor Nimmi Ramanujam and DGHI doctoral scholar Mercy Asiedu received awards at the 9th Annual Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH) Conference in New York City this past weekend.

Michael Merson

CUGH Distinguished Leadership Award

Michael Merson, the Wolfgang Joklik Professor of Global Health and vice president and vice provost for global affairs at Duke University, received the 2018 CUGH Distinguished Leadership Award in recognition of his deep commitment to improving the health of populations worldwide and his exceptional contributions throughout his 45-year global health career.  

Working alongside other public health leaders, Merson laid the foundation for the field of global health. He and his colleagues developed one of the first definitions of global health, and he’s the lead editor of the seminal global health textbook, Global Health: Diseases, Programs, Systems and Policies.

From 2006 to 2017, Merson was the director of DGHI, where he led the development of a thriving education program and research portfolio, recruiting more than 60 faculty members to DGHI and establishing a range of degree, certificate and fellowship programs. Prior to coming to DGHI, he was the dean of the Yale School of Public Health for 10 years. Previously, Merson served in several leadership roles at the World Health Organization (WHO) over the course of 18 years, including executive director of the Global Programme on AIDS. Before joining the WHO, he spent six years at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Merson, an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, has served as an advisor, chair or consultant to numerous boards, foundations, governments, NGOs and committees nationally and internationally. 

Merson recently co-authored a book, The AIDS Pandemic: Searching for a Global Response, which examines the history of the global response to AIDS and provides valuable insight for future pandemics. 

“I am most grateful to be a recipient of this award from CUGH and to have had the opportunity to participate in the growth of such an important field, both for our country and the world at large,” said Merson.

Nimmi Ramanujam

Drs. Anvar and Pari Velji Emerging Leader in Global Health Innovation Award (Faculty)

Nimmi Ramanujam, the Robert W. Carr, Jr., Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University and a DGHI faculty member, received the 2018 Drs. Anvar and Pari Velji Emerging Leader in Global Health Innovation Faculty Award. The award, which goes to one faculty member and one student or trainee, honors researchers who create innovative projects with a high potential impact on the lives of people in low-income settings.

As the director of the Global Women’s Health Technologies Center, a joint center between DGHI and the Pratt School of Engineering, Ramanujam’s research is focused on creating and improving diagnostic and therapeutic tools across the cancer care continuum. Her most recent creation is the Pocket Colposcope, a compact tool she created to enable healthcare providers to both screen and diagnose cervical cancer without expensive imaging equipment.

“It’s an honor to be recognized for the work we’re doing in women’s health,” says Ramanujam. “My hope is that, through technology innovation, we can close the gap in health care disparities, particularly for well-understood diseases like cervical cancer.”

Mercy Asiedu

2018 Drs. Anvar and Pari Velji Emerging Leader in Global Health Innovation Award (Student/Trainee)

Mercy Asiedu, a PhD student in Ramanujam’s lab and a newly-appointed global health doctoral scholar, received the 2018 Drs. Anvar and Pari Velji Emerging Leader in Global Health Innovation Student/Trainee Award. Asiedu conducts research centered on using light to detect cancer in low-resource areas. 

During her time at Duke, Asiedu has worked on ways to improve the screening process with the Pocket Colposcope. For example, many women dislike the speculum—the metal device designed to spread the vaginal walls apart during a cervical exam. Recognizing this potential barrier, Asiedu has developed a speculum-free version of the Pocket Colposcope and image processing tools that would enable women to perform self-exams without the need for a health provider, affording women more private and more comfortable exams. 

“It’s a great honor to be the 2018 student winner of the Velji Emerging Leader in Global Health Innovation. Global health, specifically as it relates to improving women's health in resource-limited settings, is particularly close to my heart,” says Asiedu. “This recognition for doing something I truly enjoy makes me even more determined to pursue my work on developing a low-cost tool for speculum-free, automated cervical cancer screening.”

In addition to the award, Ramanujam and Asiedu will each receive a plaque and $750 in funds to support their continued work in global health.

This article was adapted from an article originally published on Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering website.

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It’s an honor to be recognized for the work we’re doing in women’s health. My hope is that, through technology innovation, we can close the gap in health care disparities, particularly for well-understood diseases like cervical cancer.

Nimmi Ramanujam, professor of biomedical engineering and global health

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