Our 12 Favorite Global Health Stories of 2022

Highlights from a year that seemed almost normal

Published December 14, 2022, last updated on December 15, 2022 under Around DGHI

As we close the book on 2022, we are taking our annual look back at some of our favorite global health stories from this year. And while we certainly have not put COVID-19 behind us, this year’s list includes some welcome signs of normalcy: Classes met in person, researchers recharged their collaborations in the field, and students were scattered across the globe to participate in summer field projects. To be sure, there were reminders that we have not escaped the dangers of COVID-19 and other public health threats. But these stories give us hope that smart people, working across boundaries and with common purpose, can make progress against even our most daunting health challenges.

Here are our picks:

One Last Lesson from a Global Health Icon

In January, DGHI hosted a conversation with Drs. Paul Farmer and Agnes Binagwaho on the state of global health partnership as the world emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic. Joining from the school they helped build – the University of Global Health Equity in Rwanda -- the two global health pioneers and longtime collaborators talked passionately about the need to restore global solidarity and empower voices from marginalized communities. Those words seemed all the more salient after Farmer’s death one month later. Listen again to the wisdom of these two visionaries in one of Farmer’s last public appearances – and for more on Farmer, read reflections from the Duke community and global health students on how they will seek to uphold his legacy.   

Around DGHI

‘Never Try to Save the People Without Them Participating’

In a DGHI event, Dr. Agnes Binagwaho and Dr. Paul Farmer urge cultural humility,...

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Dr. Agnes Binagwaho and Drr. Paul Farmer

Snakebites and Terabytes

This story gets into the weeds on an often-overlooked global health issue: snakebites. In the Brazilian Amazon, a person bitten by a venomous snake may be hours from medical care, increasing the danger of death or permanent injury. Read how DGHI associate professor Joao Ricardo Vissoci is using hospital and GIS data to map out a better strategy that could put antivenom closer to the places where snakes pose the greatest danger.

Research News

Snakebites and Terabytes

How a Duke Data Scientist is Helping Brazil Get Antivenom Where It’s Needed

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Twisting river in the Amazon

A Pandemic in Slow Motion

Cardiovascular disease is on the rise everywhere, but recent spikes in low- and middle-income countries are especially worrisome. This story looks at three DGHI doctors working on the frontlines of the global epidemic, voicing their concern that many countries don’t have the resources to handle an onslaught of chronic heart disease. But the researchers argue that training and better methods of early intervention could help avoid a looming crisis in global heart health.

Research News

A Pandemic in Slow Motion

Duke Cardiologists Call for a New Approach to Prevent a Looming Global Crisis in...

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Duke global cardiology doctors

Meanwhile, in the Other Pandemic …

While COVID-19 cases and deaths declined in many places during 2022, many low- and middle-income countries still struggled to get access to COVID vaccines and medicines, increasing the risk of new variants and outbreaks. In March, DGHI professors Gavin Yamey and Krishna Udayakumar were among an international group of scholars who argued for renewed focus on global vaccine access. A few months later, Udayakumar, who directs DGHI’s Global Health Innovation Center, explained why his team is continuing to put pressure on wealthy countries to ensure everyone has access to tools that can control the pandemic.

Research News

Addressing the Global Vaccine Gap

How the COVID GAP initiative is using information and collaboration to influence global decision making on COVID vaccines and medications

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Done delivering Covid vaccines

Preventing Microbial Resistance

Effective medications have been a big part of why malaria cases have declined in many sub-Saharan African countries. But microbial resistance has rendered antimalarials ineffective in the past. How can we keep that from happening again? This story looks at one innovative idea being piloted in Kenya by DGHI associate professor Wendy Prudhomme O’Meara and her collaborators at Moi University. It’s a great example of implementation science, a critical step toward putting evidence-based interventions to work.

Research News

The Problem With Malaria Drugs: Too Much of a Good Thing

A pilot project in Kenya seeks to reduce overuse of anti-malarial drugs in hopes of...

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Malaria testing sign

Global Health Lessons, Close to Home

We celebrated the return of summer fieldwork, with 95 global health students deployed to conduct field-based research in 18 countries. But one of the most memorable experiences played out just a few hours from Durham. In North Carolina’s Pamlico County, four Duke undergraduates spent nine weeks working with officials to study gaps in health and safety services available to the county’s mostly rural residents. This story reminds us that all global health is local, and addressing health disparities always begins by understanding the unique contexts of the communities in which we work.

Education News

Moving from Surviving to Thriving

Students work to help address health disparities, disaster readiness in rural North Carolina county

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DGHI SRT Team in Pamlico County

Seeing Africa Through Different Eyes

DGHI master’s student Judith Mwobobia, a native of Kenya, was dismayed by the images of Africa she saw in Western media, which she felt too often perpetuate stereotypes of poverty and disease. In summer 2022, she organized a photo contest to show her home continent in a different light, inviting those with roots in Africa to submit photographs that capture its beauty and strength. Take another look at the striking photos she received, which help tell a richer story about the continent’s cultures and diversity.

Around DGHI

Photo Contest Winners Show Africa in a Different Light

See the best images from this summer’s “Africa, Through the Eyes of Africans” photo...

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Bluetooth hookup

Welcoming Our New Director

In August, Chris Beyrer, M.D., joined DGHI as its first permanent director in the post-pandemic era. In this wide-ranging interview, Beyrer talks about his experiences as a young doctor at the onset of the AIDS epidemic, his inspiration to work globally, and the challenges facing the field in the wake of the pandemic.

Around DGHI

Leading DGHI into Global Health’s New Reality

Incoming director Chris Beyrer envisions DGHI’s place in the shifting post-COVID landscape of global health research and education.

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Chris Beyrer and Dennis Clements

Adding Up the Dangers of Lead Exposure

Researchers have long known that lead exposure can hinder brain development in children. In August, DGHI assistant professor Mercedes Bravo published a study that adds a new dimension to that danger: segregation. The research linked lower test scores among Black North Carolina fourth graders to environmental exposure in racially segregated neighborhoods, the first to describe how those factors combine to put already vulnerable children at higher risk.

Research News

Lead Exposure, Segregation Combine to Widen Achievement Gap

Study links lower test scores among Black North Carolina fourth graders to...

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Lead testing

Alumnae With a Bold Vision

Asma Mirza MS’16 launched the healthcare tech company Steradian, Inc., with the idea of revolutionizing eye care. But when COVID-19 forced the company to abandon critical testing of its device, Mirza faced a tough decision. We love this interview with Mirza and fellow DGHI alumna Tra Tran ’15, MS’19, which explores how the two helped Steradian pivot to a new vision and the unique challenges of steering a female-led tech venture.

Alumni Stories

Shifting Their Vision

When COVID-19 hit, Asma Mirza’s plans to revolutionize eye care hit a roadblock. Now, she and fellow global Health alumna Tra Tran are steering their health-tech startup in a new direction.

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Asma Mirza and Tra Tran

Closing the Racial Divide in Cancer Outcomes

Access to healthcare is often about more than affordability or proximity. Often just the way a patient is treated can erect barriers to continuing care. At the Duke Cancer Center, DGHI epidemiologist Tomi Akinyemiju is working to understand how those subtle behaviors factor in the gaps in cancer outcomes among Black and Hispanic patients. Watch this video exploring Akinyemiju’s work, which was part of DGHI's 2021-22 Impact Report, Cultivating Change, Together

DGHI’s King of Katwe

Our favorite student story of the year was Judith Mwobobia’s profile of Ben Mukumbya, a second-year student in the Master of Science in Global Health program whose childhood experiences on a Ugandan chess club were captured in the Disney movie, “The Queen of Katwe.” The tale of how the movie indirectly paved Mukumbya’s road to Duke is riveting, and Mukumbya’s continued passion for the game had us breaking out the board and reading up on opening moves.

Student Stories

The Chess Pieces of a Lifetime

Global health master’s student Ben Mukumbya has competed at the highest levels of chess and even been featured in a Hollywood movie. But for him, chess is more than a game.

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Ben Mukumbya