Alumni Spotlight: Jacob Stocks MS-GH’20

Stocks' DGHI thesis research on a digital health app helped set him up for a promising career path.

Jacob Stocks in Kisumu, Kenya

Jacob Stocks and Philip Kariuki, one of the student developers of mSaada, prepare the app for pilot testing in Kisumu, Kenya during Stocks' DGHI field research in 2019.

By Joan Kimani

Published December 21, 2023 under Alumni Stories

As far as Jacob Stocks knows, he was the last among the cohort of students who graduated from DGHI’s Master of Science in Global Health program in spring 2020 to land a job. But it was worth the wait.  

“I was trying to join the job market immediately after COVID-19;” says Stocks, who is now a program manager with the Institute on Digital Health and Innovation at Florida State University. “I knew that I had to trust the process and know that the time that I had spent in my master’s program and the skills I had learned would pay off someday.” 

Although it took six harrowing months to get his first job offer, Stocks says the past three years have been a time of tremendous growth. That first elusive job was with a research group at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he helped with recruiting study participants. That led to his current job, where he is working on digital health innovations to aid sexual health and HIV prevention. 

The opportunity to connect with fellow students and faculty was incredibly enriching.

Jacob Stocks, MS-GH'20

It’s a natural extension of Stocks’ DGHI thesis research, which centered around the development of mSaada, a novel digital health tool to support community health volunteers in performing cervical cancer screening. Stocks worked closely with his mentor, Megan Huchko, M.D., director of DGHI’s Center for Global Reproductive Health, to refine and pilot test the app in western Kenya.  

This project had a huge influence on Stocks’ career path. The programming language that he learned at DGHI, Stata, is what he uses every day at his current work. He says that his work at DGHI helped him demonstrate the skills needed to land his job. His experience preparing submissions to institutional review boards has also proved useful. 

Stocks became interested in global health while completing his bachelor’s degree at  UNC-Chapel Hill, where he studied biology. Global health interrtwined with his overarching dream of becoming a doctor, and pursuing a master’s degree was a natural progression. He says his time at Duke was marked by enriching classroom experiences, stimulating interactions with faculty and the camaraderie among fellow students within the program.

Stocks fondly remembers spending time  in the student lounge, talking with others in the program and commiserating about the extensive reading requirements. "The opportunity to connect with fellow students and faculty was incredibly enriching," he reminisces with a grin.

 Stocks is eager to give back and contribute to current students, noting he is happy to share what he has learned about Stata, data collection tools, analysis and survey development. 

 As for his own career, he is happy for the professional experience he is gaining now. He envisions a long-term career in epidemiology and is still considering whether to pursue further education. The important thing, he says, is to carve out a role for himself that brings him joy and allows him to make a meaningful impact. 

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