DGHI’s Lavanya Vasudevan Receives Emerging Global Health Leader Award

Published May 09, 2017 under Research News


Claire Neal, executive director of the Triangle Global Health Consortium, left, poses with Lavanya Vasudevan, winner of the 2017 Ward Cates Emerging Leader Award. Photo credit: Kelley Bennett Photography.

Lavanya Vasudevan, research scholar at the Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI) and the Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research, has received the 2017 Ward Cates Emerging Leader Award, sponsored by the Triangle Global Health Consortium

This award recognizes the passion and expertise local leaders bring to improving the lives of people around the world, with a focus on innovation, collaboration and leadership. The award is named in memory of Ward Cates, president emeritus and distinguished scientist of FHI 360. Cates dedicated his life’s work to the fields of HIV/AIDS and women's reproductive health. 

“I am deeply humbled by this award, especially at this early stage in my global health career.” Vasudevan says. “I am so thankful to everyone who voted!”

Vasudevan Leverages Digital Health Technologies to Reduce Childhood Mortality

Vasudevan is dedicated to using her expertise in digital health to reducing preventable childhood mortality globally. Her research integrates innovative digital health interventions and multidisciplinary collaborations to promote childhood vaccination uptake. Her projects span Tanzania, Bangladesh, Ghana and Honduras, with a particular focus on regions where children are most likely to receive delayed or no vaccinations. 

Vasudevan currently serves as an expert on digital health taxonomy and evidence for the World Health Organization (WHO), specifically advancing integration of digital health interventions with national health systems globally. She helped develop a WHO-UNICEF framework on digital health for maternal and child health that remains one of the most widely used digital health classification schemes in the field to-date.

In addition, Vasudevan has co-authored numerous peer-reviewed publications and textbook chapters on digital health. She serves on the faculty steering committee of the mHealth@Duke initiative and teaches an introductory course on the use of digital health technologies in low-resource settings.

Mentorship Is Key to Vasudevan’s Career Advancement

Vasudevan credits her success to the mentorship she has received over the years. “I am indebted to the incredible mentors and teachers I have had throughout my career,” she said. “They have been my loudest cheerleaders and my greatest role models.” 

Speaking of mentors, director of the Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research Kathryn Whetten, who nominated Vasudevan for the award, commented on Vasudevan’s commitment to mentoring others. “It’s fitting that this award is coming from the Triangle Global Health Consortium,” she said, “as Lavanya has demonstrated commitment to mentoring students from UNC [the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill] and Duke and working with multidisciplinary investigators from around the Triangle.” Whetten also notes that she appreciates Vasudevan’s strong quantitative and interdisciplinary approach to tackling challenging health problems.

Vasudevan Embraces a Multidisciplinary Perspective

One of things Vasudevan appreciates most about being at Duke is the focus on interdisciplinary collaborations. She enjoys working with faculty from diverse academic areas and the creativity that this process fosters. Vasudevan has led or participated in two interdisciplinary faculty-student projects through Duke’s Bass Connections program and will be co-leading a new Bass Connections project on childhood vaccinations in Honduras starting this summer. Her co-leaders include faculty from the School of Medicine and the Department of Computer Science.

Through these collaborations, Vasudevan hopes to establish the foundation for a sustainable career as a leading global health researcher.

Eve Puffer, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience and global health, received the Emerging Leader Award in 2015.

I am indebted to the incredible mentors and teachers I have had throughout my career. They have been my loudest cheerleaders and my greatest role models.

Lavanya Vasudevan, DGHI research scholar