Bre Barrett, a junior at Duke, learned about cancer at a young age. A doctor diagnosed her grandfather with prostate cancer. That prompted Barrett’s father to remind her and her brother to continually visit doctors and get health screenings.
“In my family, screening was a priority,” said Barrett, a native of Kingston, Jamaica. “In my country, men are supposed to be strong and not have any health issues. It’s important to get screened because you feel okay until you’re not. Then, it’s too late.”
That experience inspired Barrett to work with organizations in Jamaica to raise awareness about prostate cancer and treatment. While her grandfather was treated successfully and lived another 14 years, she found that many on the island don’t receive care because they don’t have health insurance or can’t afford treatment.
“The gap in cancer in Jamaica is too glaring to ignore,” she said. “At home, I want more people to live long like my grandfather. I want that to be a reality for more people.”
Barrett was one of 40 students who presented their research at the Global Health Research Showcase, an annual event hosted by the Duke Global Health Institute to highlight student-led research. Projects covered topics such as financing of vaccinations, neurosurgical service delivery, gun violence and pediatric surgical conditions. Their work spanned 18 countries including Honduras, Jamaica, Mongolia and the U.S.
Posters and background on the students’ projects can be seen on the Showcase page.
During the event, DGHI Director Chris Beyrer, M.D., reminded attendees that many of the research projects on display grew from time students spent this past summer working in the field alongside DGHI’s global partners.
“The field experiences are where global health happens, it’s where you get to implement what you’ve learned in the classroom” he said. “These experiences are the hallmark of global health education at Duke and are often the most transformative time in our students’ education.”
Ismail Shekibula, a student in the Master of Science in Global Health program, presented research on suicidal ideation among people living with HIV in Tanzania, his native country. Tanzania has only a few dozen psychiatrists and psychologists while more than 1 million people live with the virus.
Some people with HIV contemplate suicide because they can’t afford medication or because the endure stigma and isolation from family, Shekibula said. He noted that one person in his study said her husband broke cups after she drank from them.
The stories reminded Shekibula of when he was a teenager. He saw a family member, who lived with HIV, endure harsh words and shame from those closest to her. She died from HIV-related complications.
“When I saw how she was treated, I knew it wasn’t right,” he said. “That’s when I decided I wanted to learn more about HIV, and this is the right place for me to be. I want to help more people.”
Like Barrett and Shekibula, Winifred Edom chose her native country for her thesis work. Her project investigated Nigeria’s progress towards financing of vaccines to curb its high infant mortality rate. Nearly 1 million children die in the country because they aren’t receiving routine immunizations, she said.
“Understanding and financing vaccines is one step to having a sustainable program so children, regardless of their socio-economic background, can have a chance to live a healthy life in Nigeria,” said Edom, a student in the Master of Science in Global Health program. “This will help the country in the long term.”
Undergraduate students Julia Lin, Catherine Purnell, Shanzeh Sheikh and Hishi Ulak are similarly focused on sustainable change. They were part of a Student Research Training team that evaluated disability care and services in Roatán, Honduras. The team developed an education program for community health workers to learn more about conditions such as walking immobility, hearing loss and diabetes.
“One of the main takeaways was that [people had] varying levels of knowledge about what disability is,” said Purnell, who is pursuing her master’s degree as part of DGHI’s Accelerated MS-GH program. “People need to talk more about disabilities, and understand what it means, to be able to improve quality of life.”
Research Poster Awards
This year’s posters were judge by a panel of alumni from the master’s program. They critiqued the students’ work based on research aims, methods and conclusions reached. Judges also factored posters’ visual clarity, appeal and creativity. This year’s winners are:
Graduate Student Posters
“Kanasina Gulabi, a pilot peer support intervention for young adults with Type 2 Diabetes in Mysore District, South India,” by Nikhita Gopisetty. She is advised by Sumi Ariely, an associate professor of the practice of global health, and Eve Puffer, an associate professor of psychology, neuroscience and global health
Second Place (tie)
“Epidemiology of pediatric surgical conditions at a tertiary hospital in Northern Tanzania,” by Pamela Espinoza, a MS-GH student. Her mentors are Henry Rice, a professor of surgery, pediatrics and global health; and Emily Smith, an assistant professor of emergency medicine, surgery and global health.
Second Place (tie)
“Understanding social determinants of mortality in pre-term Infants: A mixed method study,” by Fatima Miraj. Her mentor is Osondu Ogbuoji, an assistant research professor of global health and deputy director of the Center for Policy Impact in Global Health.
Undergraduate Student Posters
“Mitigating health risks for auto mechanics in Ghana: Education, Awareness, and Solutions,” by Amy Fulton. Her mentor is Fred Boadu, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and global health.
“Exploring the mental health outcomes of orphaned and separated children: Udayan Care,” by the Student Research Training team in India. The students are Seth Liyanapathirana, Alek Mishra and Akhilesh Shivaramakrishnan. They were advised by Sumi Ariely.