Medical students will soon have the opportunity to study health issues in Kenya and Tanzania with funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
The Duke Global Health Institute is one of six university programs to share the foundation’s $5.2 million grant that funds research fellowships for medical students. The Doris Duke International Clinical Research Fellowships will fund three DGHI fellows each year to perform research in Eldoret, Kenya and Moshi, Tanzania over the course of four years. The fellowships will be awarded to third-year medical students who plan to conduct research in a variety of health-related fields with the guidance of Duke faculty mentors.
“[The fellows] will have an interpersonal and personal adventure that will hopefully create in them a desire to pursue a career in global health research,” said Dr. John Bartlett, co-director of the ICRFprogram at Duke and DGHI associate director for research.
Students will be matched with Duke faculty members, as well as a mentor and a student partner at the site in either Kenya or Tanzania, so they will be well-equipped to conduct their research and become familiar with local culture, said Dr. Dennis Clements, project director of the ICRF and chief of primary care pediatrics for the Duke University Health System.
Applicants will be accepted from medical schools across the country, but Clements said he expects the majority of the fellows to be Duke students. He said ideal candidates will most likely have previous international experience.
Applicants, Clements said, should be dedicated to “improving health care in international sites, leading to further understanding of diseases going on there and how to prevent them back home, as well.”
Other universities that received the Doris Duke grant include Harvard Medical School, the San Francisco School of Medicine, the University of California, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, the University of Minnesota School of Medicine and the Yale University School of Medicine.
ICRF research opportunities will include childhood malaria, post-traumatic stress disorder, cardiovascular disease, HIV and AIDS, among others, Bartlett said. He added that the research sites have the potential to present drastic differences from what students may be accustomed to in the United States, shaping their experiences.
“Cultural differences may be quite significant and may involve confronting very different patient outcomes in a resources-limited setting,” said Bartlett, who is also director of the Duke AIDS Research and Treatment Center and and a professor of medicine and global health. “One of the really important things we wish to emphasize in our mentorship is not just the didactic components, but also the experimental component that helps each of these medical students understand and process the experience in a profoundly human way.”
Andrew Bouley, a fourth-year student in the School of Medicine, conducted research in Moshi at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center, which has a standing collaboration with DGHI, during his third year. His research focused on infectious diseases, particularly the incidence of brucellosis, a bacterial infection transmitted by animals. He noted that he was able to pursue multiple research interests while he was there.
“The strongest part about KCMC is the mentorship,” Bouley said, adding that he primarily worked with John Crump, adjunct associate professor of medicine and global health. “It’s really important for medicine or global health students who go abroad to have a solid mentorship and people they can go to with questions.”
Bouley noted Duke is highly regarded in Moshi by local residents as well as by other foreign students working at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center. ICRF fellows will have a solid base in Moshi thanks to Duke’s ongoing collaboration, Bouley noted. As the co-site leaders of the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center-Duke colloaboration, Dr. Ann Buchanan, medical instructor of pediatrics, and Dr. Elizabeth Reddy, medical instructor of medicine and global health, are always on site.
Bartlett and Clements touted the benefits of the fellowship, noting that the students’ research will culminate in presentations and likely publication.
“Most of the students that go to these locations end up with publications like they would if they were at home, [but there is] an international twist, so if they wanted to work in a center with an international program, I’d say they would be well-considered,” Clements said.