Bryna is in her fourth year of the MD/PhD program at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill where her doctoral work is in epidemiology. Bryna’s path to global public health traced through her hometown upbringing in coastal Maine, a breast cancer research lab in Paris, running a behavioral endocrinology project in Dominica, and managing a reproductive health study in Tanzania. Her work in Tanzania after college with her mentor from Yale solidified her commitment to pursuing a career that blends research and clinical care. She finds the intersection of reproductive health, infectious diseases, and the social aspects of wellness to be most compelling.
While at UNC, Bryna has become involved with the UNC Project-Malawi and has worked on studies about Cryptococcal meningitis and HIV among pregnant women. She plans to further develop her ties to Malawi through her dissertation research on perinatal mental health in women who are living with HIV. Beyond the dual degree program, Bryna is committed to working both in the US and internationally to improve community health.
Project: "Exploratory Data Analysis and Programmatic Support to improve PMTCT via the Safety, Suppression, Second-line, and Survival (S4) study in Lilongwe, Malawi"
June 1, 2015 - July 30, 2015
What does the Kean Fellowship mean to you?
I am incredibly grateful to have been selected as a Kean Fellow. I am excited about the research opportunities through the UNC Project-Malawi on HIV during pregnancy and the prevention of maternal to child transmission. The Kean Fellow funding eases part of the logistics involved with seeking out enriching rotations that provide students first-hand experience in tropical medicine. I feel honored to be included in a group of medical students who have notable potential to lead clinical and research work on tropical diseases that will positively impact their communities, in line with the career of Dr. Kean.
What do you anticipate learning?
Short-term, I expect my time in Malawi will be the crucial groundwork for my dissertation research that will focus on a cohort of women who are pregnant and have HIV. I have come to understand the value of having an established relationship with research staff, participants, and the community from spending more than one year in Tanzania managing a reproductive health study. I have begun developing such relationships in Malawi, and will continue to do so throughout my dissertation.
Long-term, I will gain insights into how research can be conducted in a high-volume clinic as I better appreciate the health care needs of the patients who become our study participants. Topically, I am excited to contribute to a project that combines reproductive health, infectious diseases, and social aspects of health that can profoundly shape patient outcomes. Regardless of which medical specialty I pursue, I will incorporate what I learn from my first-hand experience in Malawi as a Kean Fellow in a way that is more durable than any textbook or lecture could be.
What interests you about tropical medicine and what problems are you interested in solving?
Diseases and conditions under the tropical medicine umbrella occur disproportionately in settings where health care access and infrastructure are insufficient. This offers opportunities to work with communities to plan and implement health promotion programs, helping wellness to be a realizable human right. I have come to understand the profound social and economic impacts of infectious diseases and their sequellae. Indeed, health is central to quality of life. By preventing and treating health concerns as a physician and public health researcher, I will help people position themselves to pursue productive and fulfilling activities. To this end, I plan to train in tropical medicine so I can be effective when I work in places that have a high burden of largely preventable and treatable diseases. Beyond the clinical diagnosis and treatment of tropical conditions, I am motivated to figure out how to best incorporate changes to adverse social and structural determinants of health. These changes are critical to making lasting strides against any condition that negatively afflicts individuals and communities.