Erin Xu

In the Spring of 2003, while attending school in Beijing, Erin witnessed firsthand how SARS overtook the city at unprecedented speed. Her personal experiences and the rapid speed of climate change sparked her interest in infectious disease epidemiology. She is interested in how public health regulations, infrastructure and medicine can contribute to rapid disease containment in both urban and suburban environments. Specifically, Erin wants to focus on the effects of climate change and how best to combat its harmful effects on the spread of disease. Her liberal arts education at Davidson College in North Carolina allowed her to explore the scientific and societal side of medicine at home and abroad. Erin’s experience working in rural Honduras provided a valuable perspective on how to tackle global health problems at the community level. Her research experience in Germany also led her to realize the importance of collaborating with scientists from different regions of the world. She would like to work toward a career in disease outbreak prediction and control in an increasingly urbanized global society where the threats of climate change are beginning to take center stage.

Understanding the impacts of global climate change on Anopheles species distribution and density across altitudinal zones in the western Ugandan highlands.
Mbarara University of Science & Technology

What does the Kean Fellowship mean to you?
The Kean Fellowship allows me to investigate the climate dependency of mosquito’s distribution in the highlands of Western Uganda, where Malaria remains a major health concern, especially among pediatric populations. I applied to the Kean Fellowship because I have a passion for tropical disease prevention. The fellowship presents me with a unique opportunity to pursue this interest under the collective expertises from the UNC School of Medicine and Mbarara University of Science & Technology (MUST) in Uganda. As an aspiring infectious disease physician, I see this opportunity as a first step towards a career in public health in a society where the threats of climate change are beginning to take center stage.


What do you anticipate learning?
The expected outcome of the research project funded by the Kean Fellowship is that I will gain insight into the climate dependency of Anopheles species distribution and malaria burden in Western Uganda. By working closely with the volunteers and healthcare workers in Uganda,  I will also gain a valuable perspective on how to tackle global health problems at the community level, and how the culture local to the community and social dynamics impact those problems. 


What interests you about tropical medicine and what problems are you interested in solving?
The impacts of global climate change on human health are expected to be both widespread and severe with the direst consequences on poor and vulnerable populations. Many tropical diseases endemicities depend greatly on the ecology of the principal vectors. As a physician-in-training, it is my generation of professionals that will face these challenges. Therefore, I aspire to be a leader in this field and particularly in advancing our understanding of the impact of climate change on the distribution of tropical disease-bearing vectors, which have the potential to become more widespread when climate change accelerates.