March 12, 2021

three image panel of awardees carolyn audet, marie martin and grace umutesi

Two Vanderbilt University Medical Center faculty and a 2017 alumna of the Vanderbilt School of Medicine Master of Public Health program have recently been recognized for their global health accomplishments from the Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH).

Marie Martin, PhD, MEd, Carolyn Audet, PhD, MSci, and Grace Umutesi, MPH, were each recently recognized by the Consortium for their research, leadership and training success.

Martin, associate director of Education and Training at VIGH, assistant professor of Health Policy, and director of the Global Health track in the MPH program, was awarded the 2021 Velji Global Health Award for Teaching Excellence by CUGH.

Through her 10-year tenure as program director, Martin has worked directly with nearly 600 students and trainees with a primary focus in global health. Of those, more than half have been from low- to-middle income countries. Her efforts include co-developing the Global Health track in the Vanderbilt MPH program, expanding the Graduate Certificate in Global Health across all 10 colleges at Vanderbilt, and creating the VIGH Global Health Case Competition, now in its 11th year.

Dr. Martin’s global work focuses on enhancing foreign partners' capabilities to conduct research, strengthen medical education, foster new public health initiatives, and mentor the next generation of scholars and leaders. 

Martin has partnered on the development of the first graduate level training in public health at the University of Guyana, curricular reform of the only medical school in Liberia, and design of innovative curricula used in Kenya, Zambia, Ethiopia and Liberia. Dr. Martin also collaborates with the University of Zambia to build robust faculty development programs in mentorship and leadership.

Audet, Assistant Director of Community-based Implementation in the Center for Clinical Quality and Implementation Research and an assistant professor of Health Policy and Epidemiology, was given the CUGH 2021 Velji Faculty Leader in Global Health Innovation Award for her research on the uptake of HIV testing and improved treatment adherence by collaborating with those ignored or deemed “difficult” by the health system: male partners of pregnant women and traditional healers in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Her intervention aimed to capacitate and empower traditional birth attendants and male champions through community-based education, counseling, and by creating a structure for their participation in the formal health system. The intervention increased attendance of male partners during antenatal care visits from 2% to 70%, and couples were 19 times more likely to accept HIV testing together (compared to women attending clinical appointments alone).

In Mozambique, 60% of symptomatic people living with HIV first visited a traditional healer for treatment before they sought testing. Recognizing a need to connect traditional healers and the allopathic health system, Audet developed a healer-to-health facility referral program. Based on the results, the Ministry of Health adopted the forms and are employing them nationwide. 

Umutesi, a 2017 Vanderbilt MPH graduate now pursuing a PhD at the University of Washington, was selected for the CUGH Dr. Judy Wasserheit Young Leader Award. She previously led a team of over 100 research staff at Inshuti Mu Buzima, Partners in Health’s sister organization in Rwanda. As a graduate student at Vanderbilt, she also interned at the Global Immunization Division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta (CDC). 

At the CDC she completed two short-term projects to Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). While in the DRC, she participated in a yellow fever vaccination campaign that led to her co-authoring two New England Journal of Medicine papers describing immunogenicity of Fractional Dose Yellow Fever Vaccination during a mass campaign in Kinshasa. 
    
Martin, Audet, and Umutesi will formally accept their awards at the CUGH Virtual Conference, March 12-14.