The goal of the Symposium was to offer researchers and students from Duke and east African partner locations the chance to come together for interactive working sessions to spark ideas to further the field of global reproductive health research.

The Symposium was held over three days, with a specific focus for each day:
1. Increasing scientific productivity
2. Leadership and mentorship
3. Defining research priorities for strategic collaborations across the region


Concurrent breakout sessions on the first day energized participants in their ability to present research. Dr. Gita Suneja led a session focused on Preparing an Oral Presentation. Attendees learned how to prepare an effective oral presentation, and guidelines to follow when delivering a presentation.

At the same time, Karl Leif Bates, Director of Research Communications, led an energetic session on how to make your knowledge and research more accessible to a diverse audience. He encouraged researchers to think about crafting a story when presenting to a non-academic group and offered some key tips on the best way to do this.

We held an open lunch panel on Wednesday focused on Why Gender, Race, and Ethnicity Impact Leadership Opportunities. During the standing room only panel, Kathy Sikkema moderated a conversation between Dr. Lola Fayanju, Dr. Nimmi Ramanujam, and Dr. Sally Kornbluth. Panelists discussed different aspects of leadership throughout their careers including leadership opportunities they took, didn’t take, and how they have been approached.

In conjunction with the lunch panel, Wednesday’s sessions focused on leadership and mentorship and covered topics such as: Managing Up, Goal Setting, and Strategic Thinking. 

The last day was limited to international participants to facilitate strengthening of partnerships and collaboration opportunities. Participants Participated in an exercise identifying reproductive health research gaps and then used these gaps to draft specific aims and objectives for current grant proposals.


  • Development of leadership and mentorship skills in a small group setting
  • Collaboration with regional partners and setting of concrete research priorities
  • Advancement on an adolescent pregnancy prevention grant and development of two manuscripts on maternal wellbeing.