Center for Global Health awards 2015 trainee, faculty mentor global health travel grants

Trainee Global Health Grant Awardees

Sara Atkinson, College of Health Professions
Project: “Implementing the use of adaptive equipment in Nicaragua

Atkinson will be working with Palmetto Medical Initiative (PMI) in a clinic in El Viejo, Nicaragua to provide care to patients of work-related and occupational injuries where these forms of therapy are nearly nonexistent. An occupational therapy student, Atkinson will work with colleagues across disciplines to enhance the lives of injured and at-risk patients. Specifically, she plans to implement adaptive equipment creation and administration in Nicaragua while assessing the use of low cost, culturally relevant adaptive equipment by the host organization. Atkinson’s mentor, Patty Coker-Bolt, PhD, OTR/L explained that, “manual labor causes significant musculoskeletal injuries to the joints of the back, shoulder, arms, and legs which impacts participation in daily activities.” Atkinson is passionate about creating new opportunities for injured patients to work and have a better quality of life.

“A teacher of mine once made me realize exactly what passion means to an individual and how it drives decision making and actions,” said Atkinson. “However, I have learned throughout my own experience that having passion without direction can occur and causes confusion. For example, I was passionate about science and I was passionate about helping others, but I did not know how to blend the two. Thankfully I found the profession of occupational therapy and now feel I live out those two passions simultaneously and daily.”

Jacqueline Bangma, College of Graduate Studies
Project:  “Perfluorinated compounds and the tale of pansteatitis in Mpumalanga province, South Africa

Bangma’s project adds unique diversity to this year’s group of CGH Trainee Global Health Travel grant awardees: Perfluorinated compounds and the tale of pansteatitis in Mpumalanga province, South Africa. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in marine biomedical sciences at MUSC with hopes of continuing research on diseases in various fauna across the world. Bangma feels she has the knowledge and training to complete one of the most difficult projects of her academic career this upcoming summer. Thanks to previous work with her mentor, Louis J. Guillette, Jr., PhD, MUSC CoEE Endowed Chair in Marine Genomics, Bangma is learning investigative practices to understanding the effects of anthropogenic chemicals on the vertebrate immune system.

“With Dr. Guillette’s mentorship, I firmly believe the opportunity to research with Dr. Hannes Botha in South Africa will help me become a more versatile researcher who is able to establish strong working relationships with collaborators across the globe,” said Bangma. “This experience will also help to merge my background with chemistry into the realms of biology and ecotoxicology while teaching me to answer complex environment questions.”

Elizabeth Bernard, College of Health Professions
Project:  “Palmetto Medical Initiative – Masindi-Kitara Medical Center, Uganda

Bernard will be traveling to Masindi, Uganda this summer with PMI and an inter-professional team of her peers to evaluate and treat patients with shoulder pain, back pain, and other musculoskeletal issues. Bernard is pursuing a Doctor of Physical Therapy in the College of Health Professions at MUSC. She plans to provide corrective exercise techniques and body mechanics for lifting to the Ugandan people. With Bernard’s attained skills and PMI’s experience in the region, she is bound to make an indelible impact in Masindi by using unconventional methods to treat patients with a wide range of health concerns. While she cedes that traveling to rural Africa is a challenge, she is confident that the trip provides mutual benefits.                                                                                     

“Not only will this trip give me an extra opportunity to put my clinical skills to work, but I will also learn to evaluate and treat conditions that are not frequently seen in the United States, such as polio and elephantitis,” said Bernard.

Melissa Hite, College of Medicine
Project: “Improving global health education and community outreach in the Haitian Central Plateau region

Hite is traveling to Thomonde, Haiti in spring 2015 as part of Project Medishare for Haiti, a non-governmental organization dedicated to sharing its human and technical resources with Haitian partners to achieve quality healthcare and development services. As a third year medical student, Hite will be working in mobile clinics in rural communities throughout the central plateau. As part of a team of pre-clinical and clinical students, they will be exposed to patients presenting with conditions that are rarely seen in the U.S. Through skills and knowledge attained volunteering as Senior Director of MUSC Service Learners International (SLI), working with MUSC Public Health Interest group and completing coursework, Hite is prepared to assist her peers and preceptors in screening patients through interviews and physical examinations.

“Receiving the Center for Global Health grant will not only help eliminate the financial burden of the trip, but also assist in fostering projects and personal growth that I otherwise may have not pursued,” Hite said. “It is my hope that with successful implementation of these projects, SLI can adopt them as their own, develop them further and incorporate them in their yearly trip.”

Amanda Key, College of Health Professions
Project:  “Providing patient education to Ugandan patients with low back pain

Key will travel to Masindi, Uganda this spring to provide occupational therapy and rehabilitation to patients suffering from musculoskeletal injuries, wounds, back and neck pain and developmental delays. Key is an occupational therapy student in the College of Health Professions who brings experience working with campus and community groups to (PMI). She served as a Lead Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapist with the Early Autism Project, board member of the Student Occupational Therapy Association, and the CARES student run therapy clinic. Given her involvement and yearning to care for the underserved, Key will learn valuable clinical skills in a resource poor setting and develop cultural sensitivity vital to practicing in any clinical setting.  

“This trip will allow me to implement the evaluation and treatment strategies that I have learned in my academic experience in an intense and fast-paced clinical environment,” explained Key. “Developing the skills to provide patients with educational material and educational demonstrations will impact my practice as a future clinician.”

Philip Rodriguez, College of Medicine
Project:  “Centering pregnancy model teaching and implementation: Masindi, Uganda

Rodriguez is traveling to Masindi, Uganda this spring with PMI as a second year MUSC gynecology resident. While in Uganda, Rodriguez will employ a group model for providing prenatal care called Centering Pregnancy. According to Rodriguez, Centering Pregnancy has been shown to lower preterm birth rates among African American women and women of low socioeconomic status, increase rates of breast-feeding, and improve patient perceived stress. The skillset Rodriguez brings to the PMI project will broaden its reach for the three months he plans to spend treating patients in Africa. He has worked abroad previously as a medical student to apply his knowledge with underserved communities. He worked in Uganda, providing prescriptive assistance, chest auscultation, and listened to the stories of patients to understand their ongoing plight. From this experience he hopes to establish a low cost and sustainable form of prenatal care to a population greatly in need, and to better himself in his professional, interpersonal, medical and surgical development.

“Given the unfortunate health disparity, there is a vast amount of pathology that has largely been unseen or become uncommon in our medical training—a unique benefit that will allow me to bolster not only my medical by also my surgical knowledge,” Rodriguez said. “As a surgeon in training, the opportunity to operate on rare or difficult cases is impossible to pass up, and it is an experience that will influence my future practices and techniques.”

Danielle Stevens, College of Graduate Studies
Project:  “Impact evaluation for a trial of HIV oral self-testing kits in Kenya

Stevens, a graduate student pursuing a PhD in Epidemiology in the Department of Public Health Sciences, will travel to Eastern and Central Kenya this summer to work on an intervention and impact evaluation study. Jhpiego, an international leader in reproductive health training, MUSC and the Kenyan Ministry of Health are major collaborators on this project spearheaded by Jeffrey Korte, PhD, MSPH, professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences at MUSC. The project seeks to assess HIV oral self-testing kit uptake at 14 antenatal care clinics across Kenya and to offer self-testing kits to couples to increase testing rates among male partners. Secondary outcomes of this project, according to Stevens, are perceptions around the use of the self-testing kit, assessing linkage to care among partners who test positive, and the occurrence of adverse outcomes like gender-based violence. Stevens feels her involvement will go a long way not only for her own development, but for the contributions to ongoing infectious disease research, specifically HIV/AIDS.

“This opportunity to assist in the data collection, entry and analyses for the HIV self-testing study in Kenya is an opportunity to apply the methods I have been taught, to learn about the challenges unique to research conducted in another country, and to prepare myself for a career in developing and conducting international research projects,” said Stevens.

Caroline Vrana, College of Graduate Studies
Project:  “Assessing quantitative outcomes of a study of HIV self-testing kits in Kenya

First year PhD student Caroline Vrana will travel to Kenya this summer as part of a project funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to study the efficacy of at-home self-testing HIV kits. Vrana plans to get a head start on dissertation topic formulation by working alongside her mentor, Jeffrey Korte, PhD, MSPH to conduct interviews, focus groups, end-line questionnaires, follow-ups, and quantitative data analysis pursuant to a report for USAID and contribution to other publications. Vrana is completing her doctoral degree in the Department of Public Health Sciences at MUSC and feels that her past epidemiological and analytical experience has prepared her for this rigorous research project. Although Vrana has co-authored peer-reviewed publications and developed strong proficiencies in both SAS and R statistical software, she desires to learn more from her mentors about the culture and conducting research in a resource poor setting.

"Research is not done in a vacuum, and it is certainly more than data on a computer, or data presented in a journal,” said Vrana. “The gains I will acquire from this experience are going to be not only from the practical information learned from data collection and analysis, but also from personal experiences and interactions with the people in Kenya.”

Victoria Way, College of Medicine
Project:  “Service-learning project in Baan Namkem, Thailand: Medical Campus Outreach Summer Medical Institute

Way will join Medical Campus Outreach (MCO) this spring to provide medical services in Baan Namkem, Thailand. MCO trains and encourages medical professional to conduct missions to clinics in resource poor areas around the world. Way’s goal is to understand the practice of medicine in an underserved community as a first year medical student at MUSC. The group of professionals traveling to Thailand is diverse, giving students the opportunity to learn across disciplines. Way and her colleagues are empowered to provide a comprehensive mix of medical services including dentistry, rehabilitation and other front-line clinical care to Thai patients. She understands that there is much to learn about the practice of medicine not just in the U.S., but in low- and middle income countries. However, given her experience traveling to serve the marginalized, she looks forward to these types of challenges.

"Thailand is a place that is completely foreign to me, and my aim by the end of this trip is to understand pieces of their culture that are essential to practicing medicine there," Way said. “I am excited for the chance to return with renewed vision, new information, and fresh motivation to be the best physician I can be as I journey through medical school.”

Tessa Wyborny, College of Medicine
Project:  “Pediatric rotation at Arusha Lutheran Medical Center –Arusha, Tanzania

Wyborny is traveling to Arusha, Tanzania in spring 2015 for a rotation at Arusha Lutheran Medical Center and the Selian Lutheran Hospital to provide care in the inpatient general wards and nurseries through understanding—by implementing—World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for resource-deprived regions. She will assist treatment of common, but oftentimes fatal infectious diseases including malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, pneumonia and parasitic infections.  Wyborny also seeks exposure to management of malnutrition and preventative medicine in a resource deprived area. As a resident following the primary care track in MUSC’s pediatrics program, Wyborny is well equipped to serve the medically underserved in Tanzania. Wyborny has traveled to do medical relief work in Ghana prior to her residency and has worked in clinics for marginalized patients in Georgetown and Charleston, SC. She is now looking forward to gaining a clearer understanding of the growing resemblances of health indicators in both rural Tanzania and South Carolina.

“During my time spent in North Charleston working at the MUSC Northwoods clinic, I have learned a lot about Hispanic patients and how their culture affects how they access and utilize the health care system,” said Wyborny. “I hope to be able to build on the knowledge and experience that I have gained and apply it to my experience in Tanzania.”

Faculty Mentor Grant Awardees

Mark Berry, DDS, MBA
Professor and Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs
College of Dental Medicine
Project description:  “Leading an Experimental Service Learning Trip of 22 MUSC Dental Students to Quito, Ecuador


Cynthia Dodds, PT, PhD, PCS
Assistant Professor
College of Health Professions
Project description:  “Mentoring 10 Physical Therapy Students as Part of an Inter-professional Team in Uganda


Cynthia Swenson, PhD
College of Medicine
Project description:  “Mentoring 15 Students in an Immersive Village Health Outreach Program in Ghana, West Africa