Jessica, 24, grew up just outside of Philadelphia, PA. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Villanova University, where she majored in Biochemistry and French and Francophone Studies and concentrated in Healthcare Ethics. While at Villanova, she conducted research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia investigating medication adherence of HIV+ adolescents in Gaborone, Botswana. This work inspired her initial interest in global health and tropical medicine. Additionally, she engaged in various service-learning experiences domestically in Philadelphia, PA and Camden, NJ and abroad in Belize and Ecuador.
Following graduation, Jessica was a Fulbright ETA in Laos, which gave her the opportunity to teach English at Savannkhet University and travel throughout Southeast Asia. Currently, she is a Twenty-first Century Scholar at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a coordinator for one of the student-run clinics and a course assistant for the MS1 doctoring course. Her medical interests include tropical medicine, social determinants of health/health disparities, infectious disease, clinical epidemiology and pediatrics.
In her free time, Jessica enjoys painting, playing board games, backpacking/camping and trying new cheeses. She will be traveling to Gaborone, Botswana to investigate reasons for lost-to-follow-up among adolescents being treated for tuberculosis.
Project: "Investigating Poor Outcomes among Adolescents with Tuberculosis in Gaborone, Botswana"
June 27, 2016 - August 22, 2016
What does the Kean Fellowship mean to you?
It was an honor to learn that I had been selected for the Kean Fellowship. For years, I have communicated with members of my research team in Gaborone, Botswana via email and Skype. For the first time, the Kean Fellowship is enabling me to travel to Botswana to meet members of my team in person, to see their beautiful country, and share my skills and training to accomplish a project that I hope will benefit their community. While it is one thing to learn about tropical diseases in the classroom, it is far more impactful to travel to the places with the highest burden of disease and learn from the people who live there about the barriers to treatment, and to work together to design interventions. The Kean Fellowship has provided me with an exceptional opportunity to turn my passion into action.
What do you anticipate learning?
Relating to my project, I hope to learn from healthcare providers about the challenges of treating adolescents with tuberculosis and their ideas about how we may be able to intervene in order to be more successful. In particular, I’m interested in what happens to adolescents who stop coming back for treatment before the regimen is completed. I expect that this project may bring to light various social determinants of health that are unique to Gaborone and perhaps generalizable to other places with similar challenges. I hope to learn about the impact of the cultural context on the delivery of healthcare and look for solutions to the challenges we identify.
I look forward to gaining a better appreciation for how Botswana’s tropical setting and unique history impacts health and disease presently. Additionally, I am interested in observing some of the similarities and differences between my personal experiences and those of the individuals I will meet and get to know during the course of my project. More broadly, I anticipate learning about aspects of the food, language, natural resources and culture of Botswana that make this country such a beautiful and special place.
What interests you about tropical medicine and what problems are you interested in solving?
Where we find ourselves in the world can have a significant impact on our health and the disease processes that threaten it. By no fault of their own, many tropical regions are faced with challenges unique to their climate: bacteria that find the hot, sticky weather more hospitable, mosquitos that carry insidious infections, parasites that thrive in the warm soil and waters. Additionally, many of these same areas bear the burden of painful histories of colonization or other global injustices. I’m fascinated by the complexities of these challenges and am excited about the concept of partnering with individuals from these areas to generate solutions.
In particular, I am interested in problems concerning access and adherence to treatment, especially for children, adolescents and women. I would like to learn more about why certain patients find it harder to get the care that they need or to appropriately complete treatment regimens. Using this information, I hope to help design interventions to address the barriers and provide support to those who need it most. Especially when curative, preventative or highly effective treatments exist, it is critical to help those who could benefit most to access care and be treated successfully.