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Meet Health Challenge Past Interns: 2012

Priscilla Agyapong, 2015, Undeclared


Project: Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, South Africa
Organization/Location: Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation Youth Centre, South Africa
Adviser: Zia Mian, Research Scientist, Woodrow Wilson School and the Program on Science and Global Security

In South Africa, NGOs like the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation are the primary undertakers of community building efforts, including the fight against HIV. I worked mainly as an educator in the computer lab of the DTHF Youth Centre in Masiphumelele. My internship was very open-ended; I was given leeway to develop and introduce a variety of activities from college application sessions to one-on-one computer skills development. I also served as a research assistant in a study on informed consent in HIV vaccine trials participation. The study assessed how teenagers aged 15-17 responded to different methods of information regarding their participation in vaccine trials. In an ideal world, such NGOs would be the best agents of change as they are in touch with the grassroots and can more easily identify problematic issues and contextualized solutions. But with issues of funding, lack of community involvement, and the slow pace of change implementation in such places, I learned firsthand the challenges involved in making a measurable difference in people’s lives. My internship solidified my career and academic interests in public policy in the developing world and steered me towards a more governmental approach towards sustainable health solutions, while maintaining a ground level connection.


Nisha Bhat, 2014, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


Project: Oxford University Clinical Research Unit: Vietnam /Nepal Typhoid
Organization/Location:
Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (OUCRU), Nepal
Adviser: Bryan Grenfell, Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Woodrow Wilson School

This summer I spent two months in Nepal working for the OUCRU based at the Patan Hospital in Kathmandu. I assisted with studies on enteric fever, which is endemic in Nepal. The primary project I worked on sought to determine whether typhoid carrier screening could be accurately conducted by collecting saliva samples, as opposed to the commonly used blood or bile samples. I also assisted with a study evaluating the hospital's current antibiotic resistance testing method, which is used to determine whether a particular strain of bacteria is susceptible to specific antibiotics. My internship involved quite a bit of lab work related to infectious disease - collecting, storing and culturing samples as well as performing basic tests for resistance - which I had not been exposed to before. After samples were collected, I also assisted with data management. I was able to attend talks and lectures in the hospital on infectious disease-related issues throughout the internship. In addition to learning a lot about the biology of infectious diseases, I learned microbiological techniques, which will be useful when I conduct independent research later on.


Kathleen Brite, 2013, Politics


Project: Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation
Organization/Location:
Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, South Africa
Adviser: Zia Mian, Research Scientist, Woodrow Wilson School and the Program on Science and Global Security

The overall goal of my project with the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation was to produce a history of its ground-breaking mobile testing unit, the Tutu Tester. This history was to be published and used in reviving HIV/AIDS awareness and reducing stigma, re-conceptualizing HIV as preventable, manageable, and part of comprehensive wellness. The history would also assess what has been accomplished in the field of HIV in South Africa, what is being done currently, and what is needed going forward. In addition to working daily in the townships doing biometric registration on the Tester, I conducted extensive interviews with the directors, general staff, crew, and clients of the Tutu Tester and worked through their documented history. From this experience, I gained valuable insight into the eradication of HIV as a cultural, social, and even psychological phenomenon, the value of research in impacting policy change, the importance of access to information for the general public, and the astounding capabilities of one team of hard-working, dedicated individuals. This internship has served as the springboard for many of my pursuits, including my independent work and possible graduate study in international public health.


Priscella Chan, 2014, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


Project: Oxford University Clinical Research Unit: Vietnam /Nepal Typhoid
Organization/Location:
Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, Vietnam
Adviser: Bryan Grenfell, Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Woodrow Wilson School

This summer I interned with the Oxford Clinical Research Unit, and worked on mapping the burden of typhoid fever, which is endemic in Southeast Asia. Not only do some patients die from complications of the disease, but since typhoid is treated with antimicrobials, patients must also face the challenges of increased drug resistance. This summer, I conducted literature research on the case fatality rates and drug resistance patterns of typhoid disease in a variety of countries in Southeast Asia. Since the majority of articles and trials detailing the incidence rates and antimicrobial resistance are rather outdated due to the quickly changing lifestyles and infrastructures of these typhoid-endemic countries, my work focused on gathering and summarizing data from the year 2000. A summary of the data I analyzed will be submitted to the World Health Organization for publishing. Thanks to this internship, I not only learned how typhoid fever can be eradicated, but I also gained insight into how a health system functions in underdeveloped countries like Vietnam. In the future, I hope to continue studying infectious diseases and their effect on specific populations.


Jacqueline Chu, 2015, Undeclared


Project: Monitoring Antibiotics Use in Freshwater Aquaculture in Vietnam
Organization/Location:
Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, Vietnam
Adviser: Bryan Grenfell, Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Woodrow Wilson School

My internship at the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit focused on analyzing and summarizing data gathered on antibiotic use and antibiotic knowledge by aquaculture farmers in Vietnam. The data I analyzed was obtained from a direct survey of farmers in Vietnam and from biological analysis of aquaculture products collected from local Vietnamese markets. This information is a vital step in creating strategies to tackle antibiotic resistance in pathogenic bacteria. Since aquaculture products account for a large portion of the Vietnamese diet, aquaculture's use of antibiotics can have a large impact on Vietnamese health. After studying the data, I determined that economic incentives, such as higher sale prices for healthier-looking fish, are a major determinant of a farmer's choice to use antibiotics in his aquaculture. From this project, I was able to refine my technical writing ability, and, most importantly, I was exposed to the fields of clinical microbiology and infectious disease, which are now areas I wish to study further.


Laura Cooper, 2015, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


Project: Engaging Rural Communities in Providing Solutions to Environmental Problems and HIV/AIDS Education
Organization/Location: REPACTED Kenya, Kenya
Adviser: Mahiri Mwita, Lecturer, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies

Our goal in this project was to foster an open dialogue in Kuria District, Kenya about health issues and to encourage healthy, sustainable practices that would be endorsed by the community. We focused on two important issues in the community: HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness, and clean water use. Working in partnership with two magnet theater groups, Mwangaza in Kuria District and REPACTED in Nakuru, we developed a series of interactive plays, termed “outreaches”, which were performed by group members in various marketplaces, and which addressed the aforementioned issues. I was thrilled to experience rural Kenya and better learn how to work with a large group. I was also glad to be introduced to the technique of magnet theater, a globally practiced agent of social change. This experience helped me to further develop my Kiswahili language skills, and reaffirmed my interest in a holistic, cultural approach to health as well as my appreciation for East African culture.


Stephanie Gati, 2013, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


Project: Nutrition, Infectious Disease, and Maternal Child Health in Laikipiak Maasai
Organization/Location
: Mpala Research Center, Kenya
Adviser: Stephanie Hauck, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

This summer, I joined a research project, Disease Interactions in Malnourished Children (DIMAC), through Princeton's department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Mpala Research Center in Laikipia, Kenya. This project examines the relationship between malnutrition and respiratory infections, focusing on the pastoralist communities of Northern Kenya. Over my two months in Kenya, I conducted 68 interviews with mothers of children under five years old about their children's health, nutrition, vaccinations, socioeconomic status, and health-seeking behavior, and I measured the children for indicators of moderate to severe malnutrition. Over the next two years, these children will remain in the study for serological sampling, while the study evaluates the efficacy of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine in malnourished children. From my interviews, I learned about the challenges that women and children face in obtaining proper food and health care in low-resource settings. In addition to the interviews, I collected medical records from four local clinics and hospitals, which will be used to determine seasonal fluctuations in the incidence of pneumonia and other respiratory infections. The data from the interviews and medical records will be analyzed in my senior thesis, looking at the interactions between malnutrition, vaccination, and incidence of respiratory infections.


Elliot Horlick, 2015, Chemical and Biological Engineering


Project: Increasing Bacterial Susceptibility to Antibiotics: Kinetic Modeling of Hydrogen Peroxide – Consuming Reactions in Escherichia Coli
Organization/Location:
Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
Adviser: Mark Brynildsen, Assistant Professor, Chemical and Biological Engineering

The overuse of antibiotics has enabled bacteria to grow increasingly resistant to them. The ultimate goal of the research I conducted over the summer in the Brynildsen Laboratory was to make bacteria more susceptible to antibacterial effects. Our aim was to hinder the ability of bacteria to acquire resistance to antibiotics by altering their metabolism so that they produce higher-than-normal amounts of reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS such as hydrogen peroxide are produced in small amounts by all aerobic organisms and cause greater levels of oxidative damage than oxygen does. Antibiotics utilize ROS to fight bacteria, so increasing the basal level of ROS in bacteria aids antibiotics in killing them: ROS levels in bacterial cells exposed to antibiotics would be so high that the induced oxidative damage would become too great for the bacterium cell to handle. My summer research was the first step in learning how to manipulate bacterial ROS levels: searching the scientific literature for quantitative information about and creating a kinetic model of all reactions in Escherichia coli that consume hydrogen peroxide. I look forward to continuing my work on this project and eventually using the information predicted by my model to discover ways of increasing bacterial susceptibility to antibiotics.


Adam Kinalski, 2014, Woodrow Wilson School


Project: Oxford University Clinical Research Unit
Organization/Location:
Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, Singapore Vietnam
Adviser: Bryan Grenfell, Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Woodrow Wilson School

Pneumonia is the leading killer of children globally, with 1.4 million children dying of the disease before their fifth birthday in 2010 alone. Whilst vaccines against some pneumonia pathogens are being rolled out, simple, low-cost, and scalable interventions to reduce the burden of pneumonia are elusive. An entirely unexplored area is the impact of the hydration state of people with acute lower respiratory tract infections (ALRI) on the risk of progression to severe pneumonia. At Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (OUCRU) in Singapore and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, I researched the subject by analyzing two data sets compiled by OUCRU and wrote a systematic review on relationships between blood volume status and outcomes in community-acquired pneumonia. The internship not only provided me with the necessary support , both professional and technological , to complete my literature review but also allowed me an opportunity to visit people afflicted with the illness I was researching at the nearby Hospital for Tropical Diseases. I learned how to write research reports professionally and compassionately, a style I found both challenging and rewarding. The internship also exposed me to a new and completely unfamiliar culture and helped me find purpose within my academic work.


Audrey Li, 2013, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


Project: Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy
Organization/Location:
Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics, and Policy (CDDEP), Washington, DC
Adviser: Ramanan Laxminarayan, Research Scholar, Princeton Environmental Institute

Working with the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics, and Policy this summer, I sought to identify whether certain behaviors of hospital staff were associated with higher or lower rates of healthcare-associated infection. By searching for state-reported figures for infection on a hospital level, then aggregating that information with data culled from a Joint Commission Survey on hospital doctor, nurse, infection control practitioner, and executive perception and action, I attempted to find statistically significant factors. Through this internship, I was able to learn much about data analysis and the use of statistical software. Beyond this technical skill, I was able to engage with incredibly interesting data surrounding the culture of hospital workers. As a pre-medical student who is particularly interested in the specialty of infectious disease, this summer reaffirmed my passion for this area of study, and has augmented it with a behavioral dimension. I will continue this project in my senior independent work.


Deul Lim, 2013, Economics


Project: The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria
Organization/Location:
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, Geneva, Switzerland
Adviser: Kristina Graff, Center for Health and Well-Being, Woodrow Wilson School

I worked as a summer intern at The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, an international organization based in Geneva that finances projects to combat epidemics in more than 150 countries. I arrived at the Global Fund when it was redesigning grant management policies to improve the organization's efficiency and impact. As a part of this effort, I worked with my supervisors at the Operational Policy & Renewals team to research the determinants of the Global Fund disbursement speed. I interviewed staff members, collected data, and ran regression analysis. I presented the research to more than 50 staff members; the final dataset and report were distributed to the presentation participants. In the third month of the internship, I helped with a Program Finance team project, which aimed to prepare for audit by compiling a clear record of past fund allocations. I worked closely with Finance Officers to collect and verify source documents and to put together balance sheets detailing the fund allocations on AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis projects in Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria, and Pakistan. The internship experience inspired me to write a senior thesis on international development and to pursue a career in economics research.


Alankrita Raghavan, 2015, Molecular Biology


Project: NAZ Foundation
Organization/Location:
Naz Foundation (India) Trust, India
Adviser: Anastasia Vrachnos, Princeton in Asia

This summer, I worked at the Naz Foundation in New Delhi, a public health organization committed to raising awareness about the spread of HIV/AIDS. Initially I compiled information and wrote reports for the various projects in Naz as well as grants for funding the newer projects. I subsequently became involved in the Home Based Care project which provides medicine and nutritional support to underprivileged children living with HIV/AIDS. I worked with foreign media organizations trying to gather information for last July’s International HIV/AIDS conference in Washington D.C.. In addition, I travelled to the slums and government hospitals in Delhi and neighboring regions to speak with the people living with HIV/AIDS and to offer them the services of Naz. Often, people did not understand their rights and they certainly did not know the services that the government provided for them; in this way I also became involved in the counseling aspect of Naz. This internship not only gave me the chance to work directly with the section of society I was trying to help, but also helped me to understand some of the constraints that non-profit organizations face on a daily basis.


Kash Rajagopal, 2014, Woodrow Wilson School


Project: Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy
Organization/Location:
Public Health Foundation of India; Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics, and Policy, India
Adviser: Ramanan Laxminarayan, Research Scholar, Princeton Environmental Institute

This summer I worked with the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) in New Delhi, which serves as a think tank and advisory group to the Ministry of Health. Within the organization, I was part of the relatively new Immunization Technical Support Unit (ITSU), which focuses on vaccine supply chain logistics, and specifically on how technical deficiencies in the cold chain hamper routine immunization. My largest project required me to become the point-person on a novel modeling tool called HERMES, a discrete event simulator that can help model the effects of policy changes. Over the summer, I synthesized relevant literature, provided recommendations on means of collaboration, led communication with our partners, and later with a smaller team synchronized our data collection tool with the HERMES input parameters. Seeing our questionnaire finally implemented in Madhya Pradesh during a field visit in late August was especially rewarding. My work helped me understand how far-reaching decisions are significantly informed by nuanced, technical considerations. This experience helped me cultivate a better appreciation for the importance of streamlined management practices and field study in crafting policy. Unfortunately, our own health care system in America is remarkably inefficient; this might be a potential topic for my senior thesis.


John Patrick Renschler, 2013, Woodrow Wilson School


Project: Pediatric Tuberculosis
Organization/Location:
Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (OUCRU), Vietnam
Advisers: Bryan Grenfell, Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Woodrow Wilson School; Jeremy Farrar, Oxford University Clinical Research Unit and Princeton University Global Scholar; Nulda Beyers, Desmond Tutu TB Centre

As an intern at the OUCRU in Hanoi,Vietnam, my project was to assess the performance of microscopic-observation drug-susceptibility (MODS) culture as a diagnostic test for pediatric tuberculosis. Pediatric TB is a serious concern within resource-limited areas where the failure to rapidly diagnose and instigate appropriate treatment leads to fatalities and aids the persistence of epidemics. At OUCRU I analyzed the demographic, clinical, and diagnostic data of 726 suspected pediatric TB cases who were enrolled in a two-year study performed at the National Pediatric Hospital. I was responsible for writing a manuscript that describes this study and discusses its findings. My analysis reveals that MODS is significantly more sensitive, and more rapid, than the conventional Lowestein-Jensen culture and Ziehl-Neelsen staining methods. The use of MODS in general pediatric hospitals allows for improved identification of TB meningitis cases that would otherwise fail to receive appropriate treatment. This internship was an incredible opportunity for me to apply the quantitative methods I’ve learned at Princeton while working with experts in epidemiology and tropical medicine. My summer was an exceptionally valuable experience that I cherish as I continue my studies in the field of global health.


Elizabeth Sajewski, 2013, Environmental Engineering


Project: Oxford University Clinical Research Unit: Vietnam /Nepal Typhoid
Organization/Location:
Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, Nepal
Adviser: Bryan Grenfell, Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Woodrow Wilson School

The goal of my internship was to develop a preliminary assessment of the level of environmental degradation of the Bishnumati River, one of the main rivers and surface water sources for Kathmandu, Nepal. I was also interested in gauging the health risks of polluted river water on the local community, the community’s level of education about these risks, and their level of environmental responsibility and stewardship. To create my assessment, I collected and completed microbiological analyses on water samples, coordinated with local labs to complete physical and chemical analyses, and interviewed health post workers and others about their level of environmental awareness and sense of responsibility. From this data, I created and presented a report detailing the condition of the Bishnumati River. I also made several recommendations for future river rehabilitation and restoration projects. I learned so much about the challenges facing the developing world as rapid urbanization and population growth stress the waste management infrastructure. I was also inspired by the awareness of and enthusiasm for environmental restoration and preservation that pervaded the education system. This gives me hope that these challenges will be met in the future with greater vigor and a greater effort for resolution.


Ryan Shyu, 2013, Economics


Project: Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy
Organization/Location:
The Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy, India
Adviser: Ramanan Laxminarayan, Research Scholar, Princeton Environmental Institute

This summer I interned in New Delhi, India with The Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy. The overall goal of my work was to do research to help make better anti-malaria public policy in India. My main project consisted of creating a statistical model using sales of antimalarial drugs to help estimate the malaria burden in India. Existing methods for estimating malaria incidence are often unreliable and slow; data on malaria incidence are often produced only after multiple-year lags. On the other hand, data on antimalarial sales are readily available, so such a predictive model would be useful to policymakers not only in estimating the malaria burden more accurately, but also in expediting the estimation process. This project is still in progress and will hopefully be completed soon. I also assisted with other tasks, most notably helping conduct a cost-effectiveness analysis of various anti-malaria public health interventions ranging from treatment with different types of antimalarials to preventative measures such as insecticide-treated bed nets.


Akshata Shirahatti, 2014, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


Project: Pediatric Tuberculosis
Organization/Location:
Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, Vietnam
Advisers: Bryan Grenfell, Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Woodrow Wilson School; Jeremy Farrar, Oxford University Clinical Research Unit and Princeton University Global Scholar; Nulda Beyers, Desmond Tutu TB Centre

I spent this summer researching pediatric tuberculosis (TB) from a clinical perspective at The Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (OUCRU) in Vietnam. I was involved in two major clinical studies, both which had the ultimate goal of assisting TB doctors to provide more effective intervention and treatment to reduce mortality from TB. In the first, I independently developed a clinical study to determine major risk factors associated with pediatric TB patients in Vietnam. The findings from this study will provide physicians with information regarding how best to pilot an interventional plan to improve retention and adherence amongst patients. In the second project, I assisted an OUCRU doctor in analyzing data and creating statistical models for his study investigating the most influential symptoms contributing to morality in TB meningitis cases. OUCRU also gave me the opportunity to attend a variety of seminars, PhD courses, and discussions that exposed me to a variety of global health issues and groundbreaking studies being conducted across the world. Having the chance to work at an organization dedicated to infectious disease provided me with incredible insight which has inspired the focus of the independent work that I will pursue my remaining two years at Princeton.


Jocelyn Tang, 2014, Computer Science


Project: Pediatric Tuberculosis
Organization/Location:
Desmond Tutu TB Centre, South Africa
Advisers: Bryan Grenfell, Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Woodrow Wilson School; Jeremy Farrar, Oxford University Clinical Research Unit and Princeton University Global Scholar; Nulda Beyers, Desmond Tutu TB Centre

During my internship at the Desmond Tutu TB Centre I performed a variety of tasks ranging from updating the website to designing plans for the renovation of the centre. I also helped to develop standard procedures for media documentation, maintain the Facebook and Twitter sites, and create a Wikipedia page. I also helped generate the annual report for the centre by writing articles, compiling necessary documents, making edits, designing the layout, and publishing the report. I also had the opportunity to observe field work, and I was able to visit a township in Khayelitsha as well as the Brooklyn Chest Hospital. I participated in a few research projects involving health care procedures for the PopART (Population Antiretroviral Treatment); I examined data to analyze and predict factors that cause patients to discontinue participating in studies in which they are enrolled. By reading through many reports and writing my own, I learned a lot about health issues in South Africa, particularly tuberculosis. Some of the research projects showed me how I could apply computer science to medicine, and the internship elucidated how I could combine my major with my interest in developing countries.


Cynthia Wang, 2014 Molecular Biology


Project: Molecular Epidemiology of Drug Resistance Mutations of the Hepatitis B Virus in Ho Chi Minh City
Organization/Location:
Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (OUCRU), Vietnam
Adviser: Motiur Rahman, Oxford University Clinical Research Unit

My summer project at the OUCRU in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, involved researching the molecular epidemiology of drug resistance mutations in the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Vietnam has one of the highest rates of chronic HBV infection in the world, and the genotype distribution of HBV amongst the Vietnamese people has not yet been well characterized. During my internship, I isolated HBV genomes in samples from HBV positive patients, and then determined genotypes through sequencing analysis. An understanding of HBV strain genotypes is useful in determining patient response to therapy, disease progression, and disease outcome. From this research experience, I learned laboratory techniques of sequencing, as well as different data analysis techniques to map drug resistance mutations of HBV strains. I found my time at OUCRU to be very rewarding because it deepened my interest in global health studies, particularly infectious diseases in Southeast Asia.


Sheng Zhou, 2014 Chemistry


Project: Medical AIDS Outreach of Alabama GROW internship
Organization/Location:
Medical AIDS Outreach of Alabama, Inc., Montgomery, Alabama
Adviser: Adel Mahmoud, Professor, Molecular Biology and Public Policy, Woodrow Wilson School

My summer internship was an extension of my involvement with a student-run nonprofit, GlobeMed at Princeton University. My project was part of the GrassRoots Onsite Work (GROW) Internship program of GlobeMed at Princeton’s partnership with Medical AIDS Outreach (MAO). I worked with Amy Li ’14 to conduct a survey of Alabama college students on their perceptions of HIV/AIDS and testing. We also worked on developing our relationship with MAO by interviewing different employees in the organization to understand the inner workings of a nonprofit. I worked largely with the education department and taught safe sex essentials in the community. This opportunity opened my eyes to the lack of healthcare for rural populations, and the importance of innovative technologies such as telemedicine. More importantly, it highlighted that healthcare is at the intersection of social understanding and scientific exploration. In the South, the problem lies not in HIV/AIDS drug discovery but within a myriad of social and policy problems largely arising from poverty and ignorance. I hope to apply these lessons to future work in health and medicine.