DGHI Honors 32 Master of Science in Global Health Graduates

Published May 11, 2019 under Education News

Written by Susan Gallagher

Maya Stephens

Maya Stephens was selected by her classmates as the student commencement speaker. Photo by Chris Hildreth.

Last Friday, the Duke Global Health Institute celebrated commencement with 32 new Master of Science in Global Health graduates. 


Nathan Thielman, professor of medicine and global health and associate director of the Master of Science in Global Health program, opened the ceremony, welcoming the graduates and their guests. 

“For many of us, there is some sadness to this day. We’ve gotten to know you. We’ve watched you grow as students and as scholars, but more importantly, as people. And we will miss you,” he said. “But whatever melancholy we feel is dwarfed by our great anticipation of the things you will do next. Today you begin the next great chapter of your lives, and we cannot wait to read it.”

The Avengers have nothing on us.

Maya Stephens MS'19


In her address, Melissa Watt, associate professor and director of the Master of Science in Global Health program, noted that commencement is a day of celebration, appreciation and reflection. 

While many say life is short, she suggested that we have plenty of time to chart a new path, right our wrongs and even recreate the world around us. “The idea that life is long calls on us to be patient, but it also calls on us to be brave,” she said. “We must not be afraid to grab opportunities, to do bold things and to take a circuitous path to a completely unknown destination.”

And Watt encouraged students to prioritize partnerships in their global health careers, as relationships built on trust, respect and a joint vision often matter more than the skills students learn in a classroom.

“There is no shortage of challenges to address,” she said in closing. “As you poise to address these challenges in your future, be guided by your values and by a spirit of partnership. At the same time, rely on the skills you have learned in this program to be equipped with the power of science.”


This year’s graduate commencement speaker, Maya Stephens, characterized her classmates as the “Global Health Dream Team.” “The Avengers have nothing on us,” she joked. She charged her peers with four things: keep the end goal in mind, look at the bigger picture, remember that health care is a human right and challenge your own perspectives.

Stephens encouraged her classmates to “fight through the obstacles, regardless of what they are” and to “remember your purpose and pour your passion into achieving your goal.”

Stephens noted that, by pursuing and completing their global health degree, she and her fellow graduates have committed themselves to take a stance for health equity in the global world. “Now, we must remain accountable and hold each other accountable,” she said.


A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Maya Stephens holds an undergraduate degree in biology from Paine College in Augusta, Georgia. 

Last summer, Stephens traveled to Ghana to study the perceived role and value of community health workers in addressing family planning in the rural district of Amansie West. She was mentored by associate professor Melissa Watt. During her second year in the master’s program, Stephens completed an internship at FHI 360, where she helped develop a toolkit designed to advance research methods on studies related to adolescent sexual and reproductive health and well-being.

Stephens plans to work in research or program implementation after graduation. Eventually, she would like to pursue a career as a doctor and professor, as well as participating in Doctors without Borders as a clinician.

Listen to the full remarks by Thielman, Watt and Stephens.

Watch the presentation of awards.

Watch the recognition of graduates.