Duke University School of Medicine
"Professionally, receiving the Kean Fellowship brings me one step closer to achieving my desired career in infectious diseases and global health."
I grew up in Kingston, Massachusetts, in a completely non-medical family. From an early age, I showed an affinity towards life sciences; since 6th grade, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in science, but I did not know that it would be a career involving medicine.
After graduating from my public high school as salutatorian, I attended Duke University. There, I pursued a Biology major, with a minor in Economics. At Duke, I had the opportunity to study abroad in England, and South Africa. My career at Duke undergrad culminated in my independent research thesis on the genetic, environmental and social determinants of susceptibility to malarial parasites in a wild population of baboons in Kenya. I graduated from Duke University in 2007.
After working for two years at AthenaHealth, I returned to Duke University to pursue a career in medicine. I am currently a third-year medical student and will spend the next year conducting clinical research in infectious diseases in Moshi, Tanzania. In Moshi, I will be working at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC). My primary project will be to assist in the Multi-Country Typhoid Fever Surveillance Program in sub-Saharan Africa (TSAP), which aims to determine the healthcare burden of Salmonella infections in sub-Saharan Africa in an effort to develop appropriate vaccination policies. I also hope to be involved in other exciting infectious diseases research at KCMC.
Following medical school, I plan to apply to Medicine-Pediatrics combined residency programs, ideal for me because it will prepare me for a career in global health, where I can assist both adult and pediatric patient populations all around the world. Furthermore, I hope to attend a residency program that has a strong global health program so that I can spend a portion of my time training in culturally and resource diverse settings.
Following residency, I have tentative plans to sub-specialize in Infectious Diseases. I believe that a career in Infectious Diseases will be ideal for positively affecting large populations of people and reducing healthcare disparities.
What impact will the 2011 Kean Fellowship have on your future?
Winning the Kean Fellowship is a much appreciated and very exciting experience for me. From a financial perspective, the Kean Fellowship will help fund my year abroad and reduce my substantial loan burden. My year of research will be invaluable in furthering my education on the scientific method and evidence-based medicine.
Professionally, receiving the Kean Fellowship brings me one step closer to achieving my desired career in infectious diseases and global health. I know that the ASTMH offers an amazing network of professionals involved in tropical diseases and global health. I have no doubt in my mind that I will be able to learn and grow through ASTMH.
Describe some of your most memorable travel or work experiences.
The most exciting, emotional and enlightening travels were experienced in South Africa, where I studied and participated in ecology research in Kruger National Park (KNP). As part of our morning routine, we would often take a game drive vehicle out to our research site in KNP, where we would be greeted by giraffe, water buffalo and baboons. On one such morning, some elephants obstructing our path started to get a little rowdy. Menacingly, they started to charge our vehicle, forcing our hasty and successful retreat. Our daily lives at camp included vervet monkeys chasing the girls around in camp, finding a large scorpion on the floor of my tent and getting picked up during my run by a villager because lions were sighted in the area.
While studying in South Africa, I also had the good fortune to meet and interact with many local South Africans. Frequent soccer games and occasional dance sessions punctuated more serious conversations about culture, science and even politics. I developed a greater appreciation for the sub-optimal healthcare availability in resource-poor environments and the need to develop better access to care. Similar observations were made in Tanzania and Peru on different trips.
What advice would you give to those just entering school or trying to determine their specialty or field of interest?
Keep an open mind going into your classes/rotations. If you let yourself move beyond your preconceived notions about a specialty or particular field, you may find that you really enjoy it. If you go in with an open mind, you will get more out of the experience. Finally, if you have a passion for a particular field (such as global health), go for it! There are a lot of great resources, like ASTMH, that can help you on your journey.