Kristi Ray

Kristi is a third-year Osteopathic Medicine and Masters of Public Health student at Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Her love for global health started during her undergraduate career, when she was awarded the University of Central Florida’s Presidents Scholar Award for creating sustainable agricultural initiatives through the use of urban agriculture and community farming on the Caribbean nations of St. Kitts and Nevis. This project taught rural communities about health and nutrition and provided a cost-effective way to provide access to nutritious foods. She has also participated in medical mission trips to Nicaragua, Guatemala and Jamaica. Outside of global health, Kristi is a Nova Southeastern University Quality of Life Researcher, where she works with Special Olympics of Broward County implementing nutrition education programs. She was also selected as a Paul Ambrose Scholar for 2015, during which she created the program HEALTHFUL: Helping Establish Academic Learning Through Health Fairs in Underserved Locations that provide medical screening and prevention to South Florida communities.

Project: "Mapping and Eradication of Soil-Transmitted Helminthiasis and Schistosomiasis in Rural Philippines"
January 1, 2017 - March 1, 2017    


What does the Kean Fellowship mean to you?
I am so grateful to receive the Kean Fellowship and this opportunity will enable me to truly participate in global health from a hands-on experience. This fellowship will allow me to discover a new culture, a new way of practicing medicine, and a new area of tropical medicine research that I have not yet been exposed to. This fellowship is truly giving me an experience of a lifetime to follow my passion for global health and to pursue my dreams.

What do you anticipate learning?
This fellowship will make it possible to learn new research skills while participating in clinical medicine in the Philippines. During this elective I will be working with local medical students and physicians to adopt an integrated approach called WASHED – water, sanitation, hygiene, education and deworming. This program not only provides antihelminthic drugs free of charge, it also works with engineering students as a collaborative approach for the installation of water and sanitation facilities. In addition, during this elective I hope to develop new learning tools that can be used to educate the community about hygienic practices such as teachers’ guides, educational videos and visual flow charts. During this elective, I will also use GIS to map these neglected tropical diseases in order to conduct appropriate disease surveillance that is critical for documenting the absence of disease and determining when treatment can be stopped. These maps can be used by the Department of Health and the local medical school, as well, to increase the efficient allocation of soil-transmitted helminth disease-control resources in the Philippines and also for predictive maps. By using spatial variation of soil-transmitted helminthes and schistosomiasis across the country, it is possible to quantify the association between the physical environment and certain infections present.

What interests you about tropical medicine and what problems are you interested in solving?
Ever since I participated in an international research study abroad during my undergraduate education, my interest in tropical medicine was sparked. Learning how a small Caribbean island viewed healthcare and the health disparities present truly opened my eyes to global health. When I participated in my first medical mission trip as a first-year medical student, it simply felt right. I loved everything about it: experiencing a new culture, learning about diseases and infections that I had never been exposed to and caring for those who had limited access to medical care made me realize that this is what I wanted to do. While abroad, I learned that many people living in tropical environments had an increased burden of diverse infections and diseases based on the location of where they lived. Tropical medicine is so interesting to me because of the diversity and the increasing emergence of new bugs and new diseases they cause. It is my hope to become a primary care physician on the forefront of infectious tropical diseases and create public health initiatives in order to help eradicate them and decrease their burden on these populations.