As an undergraduate at Harvard University, Hannah majored in Literature and developed public service programs for adults with autism while working for several Boston-based non-profit organizations. After graduating in 2011, Hannah traveled to southwest Ethiopia on a Gardner Fellowship, spending 18 months studying the traditional medical practices of nomadic pastoralists in the Omo Valley. There she also documented and translated a collection of traditional songs about the indigenous flora and fauna of the region, for which she received a Fellowship for the Collection of Oral Literature from the Firebird Foundation for Anthropological Research. Prior to starting medical school, Hannah worked for two years with the ethnographic filmmaker Robert Gardner. As a medical student at Stanford, her interests are focused on the provision of healthcare in conflict and post-conflict settings.
Project: "Designing and piloting a demographic survey tool for mobile pastoralist populations"
June 15, 2017 - August 15, 2017
What does the Kean Fellowship mean to you?
Medicine can be a difficult course to stay when you are consumed with a sense of urgency about the problems that motivated you to become a doctor in the first place. You read the news coming out of South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and can’t sleep at night – but then have eight more years before you’ll be ready for the field! It requires a formidable amount of discipline to remain focused for years of medical training. The Kean Fellowship enables me to try to make a difference in these settings with the training I have now, while also developing my skills as a field researcher to be more effective in the future.
What do you anticipate learning?
This summer, I hope to gain insight into the demographic parameters and health status of an under-studied nomadic pastoralist population, as well as develop expertise in field methods in resource-scarce settings. I hope that my findings will be valuable to the Ethiopian Ministry of Health and other stakeholders in developing health services for these populations.
What interests you about tropical medicine and what problems are you interested in solving?
I believe that I owe a lot to the world for my spot in medical school, and for opportunities such as the Kean Fellowship. Given the staggering magnitude of human suffering on this planet, it is my responsibility to ask of whatever I do: Am I using the institutional resources available to me to make “invisible” people visible to larger systems, or to augment voices that wouldn’t otherwise be heard? Tropical medicine is a natural fit for anyone passionate about neglected diseases in neglected populations, and I am honored to be a Kean Fellow.
I am currently interested in improving access to healthcare among East African pastoralists, one of the region’s most hard-to-reach populations. It is a complex problem that will require integrating medical, anthropological and ecosystems knowledge to successfully address. While technologic advances have expanded the possibilities through methods like remote sensing, technical solutions are insufficient on their own, since many of the barriers are also cultural and political. Given concerns about the human-animal-ecosystems interface in emerging infectious diseases, and the very small margin in which pastoralists subsist in the face of drought and conflict, I think the time is ripe to advance this issue.