DGHI Welcomes Three New Doris Duke Fellows

2018-2019 Doris Duke Fellows

The 2018-2019 fellows (L to R): Aarti Thakkar, Sruti Pisharody and Helen Wu Li.

Published July 30, 2018 under Education News

The Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI) has selected three new Doris Duke International Clinical Research Fellows for the 2018-19 academic year. The fellows—one medical student from Indiana University and two from Duke University—will conduct clinical global health research throughout the upcoming academic year.

The fellows will be mentored by Duke and DGHI faculty members as well as staff and faculty at partner universities, NGOs and community-based organizations associated with the research project.


Duke University is one of six institutions that offers the fellowships, which are sponsored by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. With a long-term goal of developing the next generation of clinical investigators working in global health, the program aims to give medical students an outstanding global health clinical research experience. 

The fellowship program delivered on these goals for Temi Gafaar, one of DGHI’s 2017-18 Doris Duke fellows. After arriving in Tanzania, Gafaar’s research project took a slight detour from what she had originally proposed. “Allowing a study to evolve organically—while maintaining the research quality—takes time, financial resources, great mentorship and amazing support personnel and research infrastructure,” she said. “I was able to access all these and more thanks to the Doris Duke fellowship and the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center-Duke research collaboration.”


Aarti Thakkar

Aarti Thakkar, a Duke University third-year medical student, will be spending her fellowship year conducting research in Eldoret, Kenya, under the mentorship of Gerald Bloomfield, assistant professor of medicine and global health. Her research will focus on strengthening referral systems of hypertensive care in Western Kenya. 

“I’m looking forward to just being in Kenya! I have no idea what to expect, so I’m incredibly excited to have the opportunity to be more integrated, both from the clinical and research side but also on a more personal level with the local community and culture,” Thakkar reflected. “I’m striving to build a career that combines individual patient care with a greater population perspective through clinical research and teaching in a global setting, and this fellowship offers the unique experience and mentorship to begin to develop those skills.”

Thakkar received her bachelor’s degree in neuroscience and global health from Duke University in 2015. In addition to attending medical school at Duke, she is also pursuing a joint master’s degree in public health from UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. 

Sruti Pisharody

Sruti Pisharody, another Duke third-year medical student, will be working in Moshi, Tanzania, alongside Matthew Rubach, assistant professor of medicine and assistant research professor of global health. Her project will involve analyzing patterns in community-acquired febrile illness and blood-borne pathogens in Africa.

“I decided to pursue the Doris Duke International Clinical Research Fellowship because I knew that I love being in unfamiliar places surrounded by strangers with whom I would eventually build community,” Pisharody explained. “I’m excited to take part in formal scientific inquiry. I’m also thrilled to live in a totally new environment, challenged by different cultural perspectives and practices. But most of all, I am excited to pick up some Swahili!”

Pisharody graduated from Duke University in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in evolutionary anthropology and biology. She received a Fulbright to Sabah, Malaysia, in 2016, where she taught secondary school English for 10 months. 

Helen Wu Li

Helen Wu Li, a third-year medical student at the Indiana University School of Medicine, will be working in Eldoret, Kenya, under the mentorship of DGHI affiliate Peter Kussin, professor of medicine and pulmonary, allergy and critical care. Her project will seek to establish a survey trigger tool to identify surgery patients who may benefit from palliative care.

“Working alongside students and physicians from another culture opens my eyes to new perspectives on healthcare and new avenues of innovation,” Li reflected. “It’s easy to lose ourselves in the new technologies and machines, and when none of that is there, all that is left is you, the patient and your stethoscope. Cutting down to the bare essence of medicine is vulnerable and amazing and makes me appreciate the field I’m in that much more.” 

Li received her bachelor’s degree in psychology and East Asian studies from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, in 2016. In 2017, she spent two months in Kenya through the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH). While there, she performed research on trauma response education for medical students at Moi University School of Medicine, as well as helping to establish the first trauma registry in Eldoret. 
DGHI has hosted Doris Duke International Clinical Research Fellows for the past six years. 

Learn more about the program and former fellows.

Working alongside students and physicians from another culture opens my eyes to new perspectives on healthcare and new avenues of innovation.

Helen Wu Li, Doris Duke International Clinical Research Fellow