Originally from New Orleans, LA, Elizabeth Dupont attended the University of Texas (UT) at Austin, where she created an African Public Health and Social Justice major within the Humanities Honors program. Through a U.S. Department of State Gilman scholarship, she studied abroad in Mali, interning in Bamako’s school for the deaf. She returned to Mali to complete thesis research on disparities affecting this community. After graduating, Elizabeth recruited students from UT to join Malian colleagues in hosting a health and technology conference to address health disparities affecting deaf Malians. Elizabeth returned to New Orleans to manage programming at a transitional housing shelter, then served as a Community Health and HIV/AIDS Prevention Extension Agent in the Peace Corps for two years in Togo. She lived in a rural village where she assisted with infant growth monitoring, led malnutrition home-visits, taught a middle school HIV course, led weekly health classes for illiterate seamstress apprentices, and worked with a team of village leaders to host a USAID-sponsored county-wide health conference. She dedicated a large amount of her service to discussing germ transmission, sanitation, hygiene, water purification and appropriate latrine construction. Now an MSIV at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, NY, Elizabeth looks forward to an upcoming research year in Mali with the Center for Vaccine Development and researchers from the University of Maryland. Their research will assess the impact of the newly introduced rotavirus vaccine on moderate-to-severe diarrhea and its sequelae in children under 5 years old.
Rotavirus Vaccine Impact on Diarrheal Disease Burden in Mali
October 1, 2016 - September 1, 2017
What does the Kean Fellowship mean to you?
Though I have not yet decided on a medical specialty, I came to medical school to pursue a career in global health. This “specialty” choice does not come with a clear curriculum or path, often requiring the pursuit of mentorship and informal guidance. Receiving the Kean Fellowship will not only support my exposure to focused mentorship, but validates and encourages my confidence in pursuing this career and personal passion.
What do you anticipate learning?
I am most looking forward to developing a more informed perspective of medical priorities and barriers to health in Mali as well as the most effective and ethical means by which I can partner with future colleagues working in under-resourced settings. This experience will strengthen my capacity to interact in a global professional setting and facilitate my linguistic immersion in formal medical French. As a future clinician, I have had minimal exposure to the formal medical and public health research sectors. Understanding the practical components of this work will strengthen my ability to interpret medical literature and use it to the advantage of my patients. As a future public health advocate, this experience will deepen my knowledge of the relative disease burden in West Africa and how resource limitations determine public health priorities. I am also very eager to learn from my Malian and American mentors about how evidence-based medicine can be applied in clinical practice and used to inform public policy in the region.
On a more personal level, the time I will spend shadowing in the local hospital will help me determine which medical specialty to choose for my residency training. During my third year of medical school, I was exposed to many practical aspects of medical care of which I was previously unaware. During this year, I hope to verify my interest in a medical specialty as it is practiced in the U.S. as well as in an under-resourced setting – where I hope to invest my professional efforts long-term. Supplementary goals include developing my Bambara and Malian sign language skills as well as continuing to collaborate with friends and colleagues in Mali’s deaf community.
What interests you about tropical medicine and what problems are you interested in solving?Tropical medicine is a field full of opportunities to address global health disparities. Although technology allows medicine to evolve at an exponential rate, the burden of disease and social inequity in the developing world remains. Tropical diseases comprise a significant proportion of this disease burden. They also ignore boundaries of statehood. As these boundaries become more permeable to travel and disease, there is greater need for collaboration between professionals from resource-privileged and resource-limited regions in order to develop lasting solutions to address significant global health disparities.
I am eager to join this international effort and seek to optimize my potential contributions by learning how data can best inform policy and how cultural awareness can facilitate equity of agency among collaborators. As an outsider, I see the most sustainable and impactful mechanism of advocacy for medically underserved populations as collaborating with dedicated but resource-limited providers. Facilitating their access to educational and clinical tools that directly address the needs they have identified in their communities is of paramount importance. In my experience, poor and marginalized communities are the most susceptible to tropical diseases and their sequelae. Thus, my enthusiasm for ameliorating the conditions of globally underserved populations requires me to expand my foundation in tropical medicine.
I am interested in solving problems that generate unreasonable human suffering. Globally high-impact medical problems require advocates to implement high-yield evidence-based solutions. The type of problem-solving, creativity and collaboration required for progress in such settings poses an exciting challenge. My fellowship year will serve as an ideal entrée into this field. The potential progress that could result from our work is highly motivating: 14% of Mali’s annual pediatric mortalities in children under 5 years old are due to severe diarrhea; rotavirus causes about 7,200 of these deaths. As a Kean Fellow I will dedicate my research year to investigating the impact of a rotavirus vaccine on mortality due to moderate-to-severe diarrhea in Malian children under age 5 years old. This intervention could prevent thousands of child deaths each year. All components of this initiative excite me: understanding the process of vaccine development, assessing the intervention, collaborating with an integrated U.S.-African team, and considering political and sociocultural barriers to vaccine program implementation. Working with a team of passionate colleagues to optimize preventative care for globally underserved children is the most rewarding professional investment I can imagine.