Usually graduation is a joyful time, filled with celebrations, proud relatives and the anticipation of summer adventures, new jobs and for some, even more school.
While sadness and loss hum in the background on any Duke commencement day as students say their goodbyes to friends and mentors and take in a final glimpse of those gothic spires — happiness typically permeates Duke graduation weekends.
We know this year is so very different for our graduates. So, as you step into the virtual aisle that leads to the very real conferral of your diploma, the Duke Global Health Institute community — our faculty, staff, alumni and partners — is both celebrating your amazing accomplishments in global health and grieving the loss of the on-campus festivities with you.
This 2020 Duke graduation weekend, DGHI honors 99 global health undergraduates (44 majors, 55 minors) and 30 global health masters degree students. We are also celebrating the accomplishments of 5 Duke Scholars, doctoral students from other disciplines within the university who have completed a fellowship in global health, as well.
As DGHI does each year, we’d also like to highlight students and faculty who’ve made outstanding contributions to our community:
Award for Exemplary Global Health Leadership
Andrea Koris, Laura Mkumba, Yadurshini Raveendran
This is the first ever year for this award. It honors the achievements of three master’s in global health students who demonstrated exceptional leadership efforts in their work on decolonizing global health. During their time at DGHI, they organized the Duke Decolonizing Global Heath Working Group to explore oppressive historical roots of global health such as colonialism, slavery and racism which still persist in systems and structures today. Their goal was to inspire dialogue and work toward a future of equitable global health. Mkumba, Raveendran and Koris planned and organized a highly successful Decolonizing Global Health 2020 conference at Duke in January, which featured renowned keynote speakers from around the world. The conference drew more than 250 participants and another 500 virtual attendees. The Working Group then developed a set of recommendations to help develop a decolonized, inclusive and equity-promoting approach to education, training and research. The recommendations can help Duke and other global health programs around the world to focus their culture, training and practices on inclusivity, equity and critical reflection.
Madeline Boccuzzi Outstanding Graduate Student Award in Global Health
This award is presented annually to a student who excels in the classroom and in the field and who builds community at Duke. The award was named in remembrance of an exceptional global health master’s alumna who received the Outstanding Student Award in 2013 and who passed away in 2014 after a battle with cancer.
This year, Godfrey Kisigo received the award. For his thesis, Kisigo studied HIV stigma among men in Tanzania, producing what his professors describe as “at the highest level... theoretically grounded and methodologically rigorous, substantively adding to the literature in an area that is underdeveloped.”
Kisigo’s professors have repeatedly expressed praise for his kindness, passion for global health and leadership. One nominator said, “In all situations, Godfrey demonstrates a high commitment to creating an inclusive and equitable environment. In all situations, he demonstrates, at the highest level, a commitment to cultural humility and recognizes the value in each person. Similarly, he demonstrates respect to all persons in all situations. His style of genuineness, kindness and humility brings out the best in all people.”
Before coming to Duke, Kisigo completed a doctor of medicine degree at Catholic University of Health and Allied Sciences in Mwanza, Tanzania.
After graduation, he plans to return to Tanzania to start a postdoctoral fellowship with a US university. He will be joining a research team that conducts health services research to improve health outcomes in low and middle-income countries.
Michael Merson Undergraduate Student Leadership Award in Global Health
Vincenzo Malo, Miranda Metz
Established in 2018, this award honors the legacy of DGHI’s founding director, Michael Merson, who stepped down from his leadership role in 2017 after 11 years. The award recognizes a graduating global health undergraduate major student who has excelled in the classroom and in fieldwork and has demonstrated a strong commitment to global health and health equity through extracurricular activities and leadership. This year, the award was given to two students.
Vincenzo Malo, is pursuing an accelerated MS-GH program, which means he has combined his undergraduate studies in neuroscience with a master’s degree program in global health over the course of five years. While at Duke, Vincenzo has been an active member of the Global Health Majors Union, serving as the organization’s event planner. He spent a summer conducting field research in Camasca, Honduras, where he explored machisma, gender roles and mental health/wellbeing, work which required Spanish language skills and cultural humility. His professors at DGHI describe him as “empathetic and warm in his personal communications” and as someone who is determined to make the world a better place. Malo completes his undergraduate degree this year and will go on to finish his fifth and final year at Duke in 2020-2021, graduating next spring with a master’s degree in global health.
Miranda Metz, who pursued a biology and global health dual major, has made significant contributions to the Global Health Majors Union as the organization’s publicity chair. In this role, she has organized a broad range of events to guide current global health students and has advocated for curriculum changes that address the aspects of colonization that are common in the field of global health. As part of a Bass Connections team, Metz completed research in rural Madagascar, running a survey team which conducted interviews with people in over 250 households. She designed and led focus groups, and supported health data collection efforts, as well. As part of her global health capstone, she is working with the non-profit organization Shift NC to design a four-year sex education curriculum aimed at improving sexual and reproductive health outcomes for under-served adolescent populations in North Carolina. Her future plans include a two-year research fellowship at the Center for Global Health at Weill Cornell Medicine. She will be participating in global health research and program development focused on women’s health, infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases in Haiti. She then hopes to attend medical school and pursue a dual degree of medicine and public health.
Global Health Undergraduate Professor of the Year
Megan Huchko, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology and global health, was voted this year’s undergraduate professor of the year based on student nominations. Huchko is known for her commitment to students’ growth both in and out of the classroom, and for her efforts at ensuring research opportunities for them to gain in order to help students gain confidence in their research skills.
As director of The Center for Global Reproductive Health at Duke, Huchko started a student advisory board last semester to bring undergraduate voices into the center’s programming decisions. Huchko also recently started a lab at the center in order to increase collaboration between student research groups. In almost every move she makes, Huchko pushes for greater student involvement and seeks to empower students to ask tough questions and find innovative solutions.
On the nomination form, one student wrote, “For me personally, she has been very supportive of everything I've wanted to do in terms of research and more. She's always been thoughtful of students on my research team, giving us opportunities to attend conferences on a variety of levels to support our growth as young researchers.”
Global Health Graduate Professor of the Year
Larry Park, associate professor of medicine and global health, is widely appreciated for his dedication to helping students navigate the tough subject of statistics, and for his willingness to offer guidance to any student on their thesis work (whether or not it’s quantitative). He is known for his commitment to showing up in support of almost every student’s thesis defense. And his great sense of humor creates a relaxed classroom atmosphere, helping to remove some of the intimidation from what might be an otherwise challenging topic for some students.
Every student who nominated Park remarked on the time he takes to get to know each student and the attention he pays to their mental well-being. And they noted that Park would often encourage students to remember to take a break from their studies. His students said he goes “above and beyond” to ensure everyone grasps the material presented in class, making himself available for office hours or meetings. Though Park teaches first-year graduate students only, he checks in with students during their second year to ensure they are still doing well.
One nominator shared that Park “has shown commitment to student learning by being aware of his students’ progress in class. When someone didn't understand a concept, he would take time to explain it in detail. He would also focus his lessons on what students wanted to learn, and he tailored examples that were relevant to us.” Another student said, “You know he is really invested in making sure that we learn the material and that we are doing well in the program as a whole.”