Dorothy Dow, MD, MSc
I had the honor and privilege of spending my Fogarty Fellowship in Moshi, Tanzania, where I continue to live and work today. At the time of my fellowship, new data showed AIDS mortality had reduced in all age groups….except adolescents. I wanted to understand why this group had not benefited from HIV advancements in the same way as other demographics, especially when we had the ability to diagnose HIV and treatment was free. My fellowship project sought to understand the mental health difficulties faced by young people living with HIV (YPLWH), along with other factors that impacted their adherence to antiretroviral therapy. The project allowed me to work closely with YPLWH in Tanzania who graciously shared their powerful qualitative narratives and responded to our survey and mental health questionnaires. The study revealed a high prevalence of mental health difficulties and clear associations between mental health, stigma, disclosure, and adherence. I was then awarded the IRSDA (International Research Scientist Development Award, K01, funded by Fogarty International Center) in 2015-2020 to design and evaluate a tool kit to address some of the challenges discovered in our formative work. Together with YPLWH, we developed and delivered a mental health and life skills intervention, Sauti ya Vijana (SYV: The Voice of Youth), led by “near peer” young adults that was found to be acceptable, feasible, and demonstrated trends towards improvement of mental health challenges, medication adherence, and HIV outcomes. The VECD fellowship was instrumental in launching my career, opening many doors through grant and mentorship opportunities, the vast collaborator network, and ongoing support through AHISA, the Adolescent HIV Prevention and Treatment Implementation Science Alliance. To find a career that is both meaningful and fun is an incredible gift, and I am forever grateful to the VECD fellowship for the opportunity to find my path.
Tony Pham, MD
I worked as a 2019-2020 VECD trainee in Nepal. Although Global Health has historically focused on communicable diseases, major shifts in public health have since paved the way for global health opportunities outside the domain of communicable diseases. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) developed a 2013-2020 global action plan to prevent and control non-communicable diseases. Related to my background as a psychiatrist, the WHO also implemented the 2003-2020 Mental Health Action Plan calling on government health programs to include traditional and faith healers as treatment resources. I capitalized on these broadened global health priorities and crafted a VECD research project that fit my interests in alternative medicine, meaning-making, and mental health. I then successfully completed a year's worth of research in Nepal studying the impact of traditional healers on mental well-being. During this year I collected ethnographic results, semi-structured interviews, and observational ratings on traditional healers spanning from Southeastern to Far Western Nepal. While the VECD Fellowship prepares you for a career as an independent scientist, the program also makes every effort to guarantee your safety and success as a researcher. For example, the VECD program facilitated my safe return to the U.S. as the pandemic unfolded. In the end, I worked on and published seven manuscripts over the course of my fellowship and plan to publish several others using the data I collected as a VECD Fellow. After my VECD Fellowship, I transitioned to a post-doctoral position under Dr. Joseph Gone at Harvard to study American Indian traditional healing practices. After this year I plan to take on a clinical position and apply for a K award that centers on traditional healing and pain management.
Scottie Bussell, MD, MPH
I completed my VECD fellowship in China from 2015-2016, after completing my residency in general preventative medicine and public health at Meharry Medical College. My project focused on determining the prevalence of liver cirrhosis using readily available lab tests. I also collaborated on sundry projects with staff at the Chinese CDC, resulting in additional opportunities to build my professional network and contribute to publications.
The VECD fellowship was instrumental in improving my analytical and research abilities. This has been invaluable in my clinical practice; for example, in writing proposals for new services as I continued my work with underserved populations in the U.S. Furthermore, I was able to advance more quickly in my career, achieving a clinical director position only five years out of residency. The selection committee and compensation review board was impressed by my publications during my fellowship.
Rebecca Reynolds, MD
I am a Vanderbilt neurosurgery resident who had the opportunity to spend my VECD Fogarty Fellowship year in Lusaka, Zambia setting up a research initiative to study surgical outcomes of children born with hydrocephalus and/or myelomeningocele. It was an extraordinary career-building year in both a professional and personal capacity. From a career standpoint, I formed close relationships with many Zambians who I am now lucky to call both my friends and colleagues. We continue to engage in research efforts since my return to the United States. With respect to my personal life, I am married and had a 3-month-old daughter at the time of my Fogarty award. Although apprehensive about the long travel with a young baby, my family's decision to relocate to Zambia for the fellowship year turned into one of the best decisions that we ever made. My husband found a job as a high school teacher in the international school system there. For my daughter, we hired a wonderful Zambian nanny who cared for her as if she were her own and who we still maintain contact with to this day. The year offered my family an opportunity to experience a new culture together, making many new friends and colleagues along the way. My biggest piece of advice to any young researcher with a family is that things have a way of working out. It is difficult to plan in advance for extended time abroad in an LMIC, in part, because online information is less common than in America (where it seems almost every business or organization has a website), but do not let having young kids deter you from what is bound to be an incredibly rewarding family experience.
Selorm Adzaku Dei-Tutu, MD, MPH
I completed my VECD fellowship in Accra, Ghana in 2017 – 2018, after taking time off my pediatric endocrinology fellowship and my Master of Public Health program. I also happened to have a 3 month old infant. My project looked at screening maternal urine iodine levels and correlating those to their infants’ TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone levels) as a first step towards newborn screening for congenital hypothyroidism in Ghana. I chose to do my project in Ghana, because I’m from Ghana, where most of my family lives, and the topic of pediatric endocrine care in Ghana is near and dear to my heart.
It was wonderful year from both personal and professional perspectives. It was an incredibly rare and invaluable opportunity for me and my child to spend an extended time with family. At the same time, I spent this protected time carrying out a project which I found very meaningful and working out building blocks to my overarching career goal. This experience gave me a lot of practical knowledge about what a career in pediatric endocrinology and global health work might look like and gave me the opportunity to build long lasting professional and personal contacts. Overall, the VECD was a great opportunity and I am very glad that I was able to do this fellowship from both a personal and professional standpoint.