Senior Emily Nagler Promotes Reproductive Health Locally and Globally

Emily Nagler at Reproductive Health Table in Quito

Outside a reproductive health clinic in Quito, Ecuador, Emily Nagler helps set up a table of youth-friendly resources about safe sex, contraceptive options and where to access these methods.

By Nick Steenwyk

Published April 29, 2019, last updated on March 26, 2020 under Education News

From involvement with dance groups, K-ville tenting and sexual health advocacy on campus to research in rural North Carolina and an internship in Ecuador, senior Emily Nagler is locally grounded and globally engaged.

Opportunities for community involvement were one of the reasons Nagler chose Duke in the first place. From Chappaqua, New York, Nagler was seeking a college experience where she could major in both global health and public policy while dancing and showing school spirit on the side.

Nagler first became interested in global health through a high school class where she read “Half the Sky,” a book based on the Chinese proverb: “Women hold up half the sky.” The stories told in the book sparked Nagler’s interest in gender equity, health policy and human rights.

After graduating, Nagler will work at the Women’s Justice Initiative in Guatemala as a Princeton in Latin America Fellow. 

Through sophomore and junior year classes, Nagler began to home in on her global health passions. Global Health Ethics provided a broad background of health issues, while courses like Gender and Global Health and Global Reproductive Health helped her dive deeper into issues of sexual and reproductive health and rights. “I’m most interested in the intersection of feminism and gender equity with health problems and policy,” she said.

Nagler appreciates the adaptability of the global health major to fit each student’s passions. “I have also loved getting to know other students in the program,” she said. “Everyone has their own experiences and areas of strength within global health, so we learn lots from each other about how to work in different contexts.”

The summer after her sophomore year, Nagler completed an eight-week project in Quito, Ecuador, where she worked as an intern at El Centro Médico de Orientación y Planificación Familiar, a reproductive health nonprofit. In this role, she trained youth health promoters in a peer-based sexual health education program for adolescents. The program included workshops that taught safe sex practices and provided students with information on contraceptive use. Nagler also completed a small evaluation project to help the nonprofit improve program implementation.

Recognizing that “global” also includes “local,” Nagler turned to North Carolina as the focus of her honors thesis. She interviewed migrant and seasonal farm workers in Johnston and Sampson counties about their experiences during Hurricane Matthew, which caused extensive flooding in 2016. 

She found that many migrant workers missed out on evacuation notices and transportation services because the government didn’t know where they lived due to language barriers and issues of trust. After analyzing the qualitative narratives she collected from the workers and service providers in the area, Nagler wrote policy recommendations for improving disaster outcomes and the recovery process for future hurricanes. She shared them with policymakers and employees at the state and local levels and is working on publishing them now.

Taking her global health passions even one step closer to home, Nagler serves as president of Peer Advocacy for Sexual Health (PASH), an on-campus student group at Duke. PASH’s goal is to empower students with the knowledge they need to engage in healthy sexual interactions and encourage non-judgmental discourse on a variety of sexual health topics. Nagler took a house course led by PASH and has worked to expand peer-to-peer sexual health resources through her involvement.

After graduating, Nagler will work at the Women’s Justice Initiative in Guatemala as a Princeton in Latin America Fellow. She’ll be focusing on development and communications in support of projects promoting female empowerment through legal services, education and gender-based violence prevention efforts. After the year-long fellowship, Nagler plans to complete a master’s degree in public health and do global-perspective policy work in the United States.