Class of 2024 Spotlight: Ismail Shekibula MS’24

Embracing every challlenge as an opportunity for growth

Ismail Shekibula and Bell

By Alicia Banks

Published April 29, 2024 under Student Stories

Ismail Shekibula, a native of Tanzania, is graduating with a master of science in global health. He came to Duke after earning a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and psychology at the University of Dodoma in central Tanzania. His research focuses on mental health in people living with infectious diseases, particularly HIV/AIDS. While at Duke, Shekibula was a Duke Global Health Student Ambassador. 

The supportive community at Duke has provided me with resources, mentorship and opportunities for growth that I couldn't have found elsewhere.

What’s next for me after graduation… I plan to continue my work in global health, particularly focusing on mental health interventions for vulnerable populations, especially those living with HIV. I am passionate about making a difference in the lives of individuals facing stigma and mental health challenges in Tanzania and beyond. My next step to advance my skills and knowledge to better serve my community is pursuing a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.

My interest in global health comes from… nearly a decade of working in the research field, starting as a research assistant and becoming a research coordinator. Witnessing the stigma faced by someone I knew living with HIV deeply impacted me, sparking a desire to enhance the well-being of those facing similar challenges. I recognize the importance of mental well-being in overall health and quality of life.

My thesis work taught me… the importance of understanding the unique challenges and experiences of individuals living with HIV. It highlighted the intersectionality of mental health and HIV/AIDS and reinforced the need for culturally sensitive and contextually relevant interventions. My thesis was titled, “Everyone is fighting their own battles,” and explores the suicidal ideation among people living with HIV in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. 

If you had told me I’d be at Duke… I might not have believed it. Coming from humble beginnings in Tanzania to attending a prestigious institution like Duke seemed like a distant dream. However, through hard work, dedication, and the support of mentors and colleagues, I've been fortunate enough to pursue my passion for global health at the Duke Global Health Institute.

Something I’ve done at Duke that I couldn’t do anywhere else is… the opportunity to engage in meaningful research and collaborate with esteemed faculty members on projects that directly impact global health outcomes. The supportive community at Duke has provided me with resources, mentorship and opportunities for growth that I couldn't have found elsewhere.

What I will miss about Duke… I will miss the vibrant and diverse community at Duke. It’s where I've formed lasting connections with fellow students, faculty and staff. The stimulating academic environment, rich with opportunities for learning and collaboration, has been instrumental in shaping my academic and professional journey.

My advice for global health students… Remain curious, compassionate and committed to making a positive difference in the world. Embrace diverse perspectives, engage in meaningful research and seek mentorship from experienced professionals in the field. Remember that every challenge presents an opportunity for growth, and your passion for improving global health outcomes can drive meaningful change. You can do it!! My philosophy is believe in yourself and take one step every day.