Brandon Kuang is a second year medical student at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. The son of Chinese immigrants, he was born and raised in the Los Angeles area before attending the University of California, San Diego, where he graduated with a B.S. in Microbiology and a minor in Global Health. While at UCSD, Brandon served as a teaching assistant on various courses spanning the fields of medical anthropology, medical microbiology, and global health research. In December 2010, he volunteered with a mobile medical campaign in Lima, Peru where he worked with local Peruvian doctors to provide basic medical services to shantytown communities, and, in the summer of 2011, he studied refugee public health and epidemiology at the King Hussein Cancer Center while also working in UNRWA Palestinian refugee camps in Amman, Jordan.
Prior to beginning medical school, Brandon worked for Project Concern International (PCI), a non-profit international development organization. In this role, Brandon led organization-wide research, development, and training on the implementation of mobile technologies for program monitoring and evaluation. His responsibilities included fieldwork, coordination and consultation with country programs across the Americas, sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia in the areas of agriculture, women empowerment, school nutrition, and disaster resiliency.
Project: "Viral Hemorrhagic Fever and Ebola Survivorship in the Democratic Republic of the Congo"
June 12, 2015 - July 24, 2015
What does the Kean Fellowship mean to you?
I am incredibly grateful for and humbled by the generous support of the Benjamin H. Kean Fellowship and the members of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. The support of the Kean fellowship has given me the opportunity to study a disease I never would have imagined I would have the chance to study, in a geographic location that I never would have imagined I would be able to visit during medical school. I have no doubt that this privilege to further explore the global community around me, to work with international experts, will help me to become a stronger physician and leader in the future.
What do you anticipate learning?
After having undertaken my journey to the Congo, I have learned many lessons about research, tropical medicine, and global health as well as had a crash course in the history, health systems, and governmental processes of the DRC. I caught a glimpse of the barriers to timely disease reporting and response faced by the DRC as a consequence of limited resources and communication infrastructure. I gained an appreciation for the enormous burden of neglected tropical diseases in the DRC and their presentations—diseases like human African trypanosomiasis, Buruli ulcer, lymphatic filariasis, and schistosomiasis—many of which I had been unaware of prior to this trip. Finally, while the amount of need and the sheer number of challenges that exist in the DRC are staggering, what greatly excited me were the incremental but steady steps I saw being taken to move forward by building up local research capacity and encouraging knowledge exchange.
What interests you about tropical medicine and what problems are you interested in solving?
My interest in infectious diseases developed over the course of my undergraduate years at the University of California, San Diego. This program afforded me the amazing opportunity to couple my study of the pure biological sciences with a diverse foundation in history, medical anthropology, sociology, epidemiology and public health. It is through these experiences that I gained an awareness of the devastating impact of poverty, conflict, and health inequities compounded by the toll of neglected tropical diseases around the world. With the large global burden of NTDs, addressing these diseases is a complex feat necessitating interdisciplinary perspectives—not solely at a biological level but at a cultural, sociological, systems and infrastructure level as well. Given my background, I am very interested in learning how I can gain the skills necessary to contribute to strengthening infectious disease surveillance and prevention programs from a policy and systems level.