DGHI Celebrates Graduation of 47 Global Health Undergraduates

Chaya Bhat

Chaya Bhat was selected by her classmates as the student commencement speaker. Photo by Chris Hildreth.

By Susan Gallagher

Published May 11, 2019, last updated on April 7, 2020 under Education News

Last Friday, the Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI) celebrated commencement with 47 global health undergraduates.

Twelve students graduated with distinction in global health, demonstrating academic excellence through the successful completion of a substantive written project evaluated by a faculty committee.


Dennis Clements, a DGHI professor and director of undergraduate studies in global health, opened the ceremony, welcoming the graduates and their guests. “We arrive at these ceremonies knowing that students through their diligence, families through their support, and faculty and staff through their guidance, all participated in helping to arrive at this glorious moment,” he said. “These occasions remind us that—like in global health—all things worth accomplishing usually can’t be done alone.”

The world is as only as big as we let it be.

Chaya Bhat '19


Megan Huchko, associate professor of obstetrics & gynecology and global health and director of DGHI’s Center for Global Reproductive Health, gave the commencement address. 

Huchko shared advice with graduates from her perspective as a global health researcher, doctor and educator, a Duke graduate and a parent. 

She encouraged students to be open-minded about the various directions their future might take them. “There is not a single path to get you where you want to go, and not just one destination,” she said. “Along these many paths, you’ll probably have some pretty great experiences and growth as you make your way.”

Sharing a personal story about her own global health journey, Huchko also urged graduates to embrace failure: “Take on challenges to learn and let your perspective shift. Failing means that you have tried something new and pushed yourself.”

She closed her remarks with a note of confidence about the graduates’ potential to make a profound positive impact in the world. “We will have a lot of amazing thinkers and doers who will redefine what it means to practice global health,” she said. “I can’t even predict some of the achievements we’ll see, but I know I’m looking forward to learning from it.”


This year’s undergraduate commencement speaker, global health and economics major Chaya Bhat, reflected on the meanings of the words “global,” “health” and “systems.” “[Global health] is a major that supports students in charging at the world’s most pressing issues, whatever and wherever that is,” she said. “The world is as only as big as we let it be.”

Bhat noted that global health students at Duke are empowered to address health from a wide range of perspectives and create their own definitions of health. And she characterized DGHI as a system that “learns, grows and gives”—one that fosters collaboration and encourages discussion. 

As global health majors, Bhat told her peers, “all of us have a moral responsibility to utilize the tools we have been given for good.” She closed her remarks by challenging her classmates “to think about what this program has given you, both in terms of academic and life experiences, and the responsibility we bear to share that knowledge.”


Chaya Bhat, who hails from Tampa, Florida, became interested in global health after working at a farmer’s market in New Orleans the summer after her freshman year, where she helped oversee two public health programs and manage the market. While at Duke, she participated on Bass Connections student research projects in Nepal and Kenya, focusing on interventions that used mobile health to address inequities in access to mental health resources.

Under the guidance of assistant professor Eric Green, Bhat completed an honors thesis on the development and feasibility of using an artificial intelligence chatbot to address perinatal depression in Kenya.

Bhat, who is part of the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program, will work in management consulting after graduation. In the longer term, she plans to pursue an advanced degree and work in the international development sphere, specifically with mobile health technologies in the developing world.

Listen to the full remarks by Clements, Huchko and Bhat.

Watch the presentation of awards.

Watch the recognition of graduates.