Megan Harris

Megan Harris is originally from Plattsburgh, NY and recently completed her first year of medical school at SUNY Upstate University. She I received her bachelor’s degree from Northeastern University, where she was a behavioral neuroscience major and social entrepreneurship minor. She completed two research co-ops during her time at Northeastern: one in the Tissue Protection and Repair Department at Genzyme in Massachusetts, and another in the Cardiothoracic Surgical Department of a government funded hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. Her co-op experiences played a significant role in igniting here interest in scientific research and understanding how socioeconomic factors influence individual and population health. 

Megan envisions a future in healthcare spent largely serving underserved populations. During her time at Upstate, she has been able to foster her interest in working with underserved populations by engaging in numerous extracurricular activities, such as leading a foot clinic that, under the guidance of local physicians, serves the Syracuse homeless population. 

Here interests in global health originated from time working with poverty alleviation projects in rural and impoverished regions throughout Nicaragua and Ecuador. Later, the time she spent working in South Africa provided insight to the profound impact of tuberculosis in resource limited settings and further cultivated a keen interest in the intersection of infectious disease and public health. Megan said she is thrilled to be able to spend this summer further nurturing these interests in Machala, Ecuador.

Project: "Arbovirus Education Initiative for Disease Control through Community Empowerment"
June 1, 2017 - August 1, 2017


What does the Kean Fellowship mean to you?
I am greatly honored to have been awarded the ASTMH Benjamin Kean Fellowship. Having the generous support of ASTMH has provided me with the economic means and furthered my motivation to gain deeper insight to the field of tropical medicine and to contribute to meaningful research. This Fellowship plays a large supportive role in allowing me to explore my interest in the interplay of public health and infectious disease and I look forward to sharing what I learn with others. I intend to embrace this opportunity and utilize the momentum it provides me with to make continued contributions to the field of tropical medicine throughout my career.

What do you anticipate learning?
In Machala, I look forward to learning about dengue virus, Zika virus and chikungunya, and participating in the development of improved disease surveillance techniques. I plan to gain insight to the socioeconomic determinants of health and I hope to integrate established and currently developing predictive models of dengue virus transmission in order to play a role in equipping communities with the knowledge, capacity and will to effectively address disease risk factors. Additionally, I greatly look forward to fully immersing myself in the local culture and to learn a great deal from those around me.

What interests you about tropical medicine and what problems are you interested in solving?
My primary drive to pursue medicine is my ever evolving interest in the interplay between the fields of infectious disease, preventative medicine and public health –particularly in regions of substantial need and limited resources. I find tropical medicine to be an intriguing subset of infectious disease due to the interactions of pathology, ecology and sociology that complicate disease mitigation. 

Tracking vectors and human carriers are key challenges to the field of tropical medicine, and further complicating the matter are the ways in which transmission is so intricately entwined with social conditions such as housing, diet and community perception, as well as other factors that are difficult to alter or predict, like climate. I am interested in not just improving the health of individuals when a problem arises, but addressing the barriers to health that put individuals at risk for disease in the first place. Ultimately, I seek to address such barriers that disproportionately affect vulnerable populations.