Global health certificate gains popularity

Despite the relative youth of the Duke Global Health Certificate Program, students note that the field of global health offers a rich array of post-graduate career opportunities.

Since 2006, more than 120 students have graduated with a certificate in global health, said Geelea Seaford, assistant director of communications for the Duke Global Health Institute. She added that the certificate program ranks second in popularity among other programs at the University and has seen a steady increase in the number of graduates since its inauguration.

“The goal of the DGHI and the certificate program is to prepare tomorrow’s leaders in global health,” Seaford said. “Because global health is so broad, there are many different careers students can pursue and it gives people many opportunities to engage in service.”

Program graduates often go on to work for various non-profit organizations—such as FACE AIDS and Resources for the Future—or obtain jobs through the government, including with the Department of Health & Human Services, said Brian Seavey, professional development coordinator of the DGHI.

Like many first-years, Jessica Freifeld, Trinity ’09, did not have a career in mind until she took a class her freshman year entitled “AIDS and Emerging Diseases.” The class, Freifeld’s first taste of global health, was the spark that ignited her passion for the field.

Freifeld, who majored in political science, is currently working in communications as a senior associate at Global Health Strategies, a company that focuses on global health advertising.

“A lot of people only think of global health as fieldwork or program work, but it’s so much more than that,” she said. “My company is a good example of working in the field in a different way.”

Some students also get involved in research or community health post-graduation, Seavey said. He added that students draw from diverse backgrounds—representing 25 different majors—which is the primary reason for such vocational diversity.

“Students major in various fields, but we’ve seen this unchanging desire from them to work in global health and to serve,” Seavey said.

Frances Aunon, Trinity ’10, majored in cultural anthropology and is now a research assistant at the DGHI Center for AIDS Research.

“Teasing apart seemingly simple scenarios [during the freshman Global Health Focus program] and grounding them in such practical, ‘human’ understanding quickly showed the complexity of the issues at hand and demonstrated the importance of interdisciplinary thinking of global health,” she wrote in an email Tuesday.

Seaford noted that the fieldwork requirement of the certificate program contributes largely to the program’s popularity.

“Students conduct their own research projects and work with local or international organizations and that gives them a chance to apply the skills they learn in the classroom to a real-world setting,” Seaford said.

Graduates noted the impact the program had not only on their Duke experience, but also on their life after graduation.

“Participating in the certificate program definitely helped change my way of thinking and approaching problems through the opportunities, both in the classroom and in the field, that I was afforded,” Aunon said.

Freifeld said the certificate program helped shape her career path by teaching her about both the basics of global health and refining her interests.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today and working in this field without the people I met at the DGHI and the certificate program itself,” Freifeld said. “I came away believing in the power of the individual to make a difference in the world.”


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