Duke Students Become Virus Detectives through Global Health Fieldwork


Hudson Berkhouse, MSc-GH student at Duke Kunshan University, and Jane Fieldhouse, MSc-GH student at the Duke Global Health Institute--both members of the Bass Connections team--talk with Dr. Cheng-Ing Kong, a medical officer at Kapit Hospital. Photo by Jim Rogalski.

Published October 30, 2017, last updated on April 21, 2020 under Education News

In recent years, Southeast Asia has surfaced as a “hotspot” for novel respiratory virus emergence due to dense populations of humans and domestic animals living in close proximity. The state of Sarawak in eastern Malaysia, where locals market and eat jungle products such as wild mammal meat, is one of these areas. This summer, six global health students traveled there to study viral pathogens and investigate their impact on humans.

The team partnered with Sibu Hospital, Kapit Hospital and Sarawak’s State Health Department in surveilling for influenza viruses, coronaviruses, adenoviruses and enteroviruses of human or animal origin. Their research took them to hospital wards, open markets, swine farms and a pork processing plant.

Their goal is to improve understanding of the factors contributing to the spread of respiratory illness, ultimately enhancing preparedness for and possibly preventing disease outbreaks.

Watch this video for a “day in the life” glimpse of the team’s summer fieldwork—hear from the students on the team and their Malaysian collaborators, and see them all in action.

Gregory Gray, professor of medicine, environmental health and global health, and Tech-Hock Toh, pediatrician and head of the Clinical Research Centre at Sibu Hospital, led the project. Other project leaders included medicine and global health professor Nathan Thielman and Kristen Coleman, post-doctoral global health fellow at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore.

The project was co-funded by DGHI, Bass Connections at Duke, Duke Kunshan University and Duke One Health. The video was produced by Jim Rogalski, director of video productions at the Duke Medical Alumni Association.

Learn More:

  • Learn more about this project.
  • Read the student research team's blog to hear about their experiences firsthand.

Research in the field is absolutely essential to a career in global health, so being able to see what you’ve learned in the classroom applied in the field is invaluable.

Jane Fieldhouse, second-year MSc-GH student

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