Monalisa is a second-year medical student at Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina. A native Californian, she left the Golden State to attend Duke University in North Carolina and graduated with a B.A. in Public policy. She then completed a Master's of Science at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., in Physiology. She is a first-generation Egyptian and during my interactions with family and friends overseas, she noticed the difference in health outcomes between the U.S. and Egypt, which sparked her interest in medicine. She is particularly interested in health policy and global health. She returned to South Africa after volunteering there in Durban five years ago in an HIV Clinic and Wellness Center because she was fascinated by the health systems and emphasis on community care. When she returned, she explored the field of community health in her own backyard by working with Stanford Prevention Research Center in California on a family-based obesity intervention. Her interest in family planning grew during her final capstone project in global health at Duke, which culminated in a family planning call tool that is being put to use in Western Kenya. She intends to l focus her career on women's health and community care and continue her training in global health. In her free time, Monalisa loves anything foodie-related. She likes to cook, read food blogs and restaurant reviews, and maintain her own food blog.
Project: "Evaluating PrEP Adherence in HIV-Uninfected South African Adolescents"
June 5, 2017 - July 28, 2017
What does the Kean Fellowship mean to you?
The Kean Fellowship has given me the unique opportunity to travel back to South Africa, a place that left a massive impact on me as an undergraduate. I knew I wanted to return and learn more about health systems and community care practices here after volunteering in an HIV Wellness Centre in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal during my time at Duke University. South Africa faces immense health burdens in many aspects but most notably the HIV epidemic, and the consequences of the disease have taken a toll on young women disproportionately. I am very interested in gearing my career toward alleviating global health disparities and learning from community researchers. I am grateful to be supported in pursuing my goals in global health and recognized for my efforts. I am excited to surround myself with like-minded scientists and physicians by joining the community of Kean Fellows.
What do you anticipate learning?
I intend on learning about the process of conducting research abroad by spearheading my own project in a field I am passionate about. My interest in sexual and reproductive health led me to engage in a project looking at the risk factors for unintended pregnancy in the township of Masiphumelele, just outside of Cape Town, South Africa. I am focusing on adolescent girls and young women because I hope to understand their needs and unique perspective as women in areas with high rates of HIV and sexual health concerns. I believe it is critical to empower women who can uplift communities with regards to their health outcomes and economic stability. One of the factors that can contribute to a cycle of poverty is unintended early pregnancy. I am interested to hear from women about their views about family planning and sexual health, the control they feel over their lives and their perspectives on what it means to be empowered to live their lives the way they envision them. I hope to learn what women in this community prioritize and how their health fits in because it is impossible to advocate for patients without a basis of understanding. The experience will also give me great insight into being an integral member of a global health team and communicate across continents.
What interests you about tropical medicine and what problems are you interested in solving?
I am interested in empowering women and vulnerable patient populations by increasing access to care such that patients can take control of healthcare decision making. I hope to work in the fields of reproductive and sexual health as a means for women of all ages to gain more autonomy with regards to their health and subsequently see more control over the rest of their lives. I have a public policy background and I wish to build upon that by exploring health systems and policies around the world in regards to how they affect under-served patients in particular.