From Durham to Moshi, New Skills Strengthen Research on Hypertension and Emergency Care

Sophie Galson and colleagues

As a master’s student at the Duke Global Health Institute, Dr. Sophie Galson has been collaborating on a research project on hypertension in the emergency department of Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center in Moshi, Tanzania. To build her language skills and strengthen her contribution to this ongoing work, she enrolled in a residential immersive Swahili course at The Training Centre for Development Cooperation in Eastern and Southern Africa (TCDC).

Galson was among 18 Duke University students who received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) in 2017-18 from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies for training beyond their core disciplines. Her faculty mentor is Catherine Staton. Now back at Duke, she shared an update:

Sophie Galson and colleaguesAs a current Global Health Emergency Medicine Fellow, I recently returned to the U.S. after completing seven months of fieldwork in Moshi, Tanzania, where I was studying non-communicable diseases in the Emergency Department under the mentorship of Dr. Catherine Staton and Dr. John Stanifer.

In addition to working clinically in the Duke Emergency Department, I published “Epidemiology of hypertension in Northern Tanzania: A community-based mixed-methods study” in BMJ OPEN earlier this year. I also just defended my master’s thesis at the Duke Global Health Institute on the burden of hypertension in the emergency department and linkage to care in Moshi, Tanzania.

Sophie GalsonIn April, I presented my thesis work at the European Cardiology Congress (Europrevent) conference in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and was awarded best oral poster presentation. In the next year I plan to write three to four additional manuscripts based on my thesis project. I also currently mentor one Tanzanian master’s student (Catherine Agustine) on research methods. A basic knowledge of Swahili was crucial to my success in integrating into the research collaboration in Tanzania and analyzing my qualitative results.

I have greatly enjoyed learning the KiSwahili language and Tanzanian culture throughout my time in Tanzania, and the weekly tutoring sessions have helped greatly to accelerate this process. The MS TCDC course was a perfect capstone experience and I was able to start at an intermediate level due to the tutoring. This grant has also had effects beyond myself. Our team has been motivated by my experience to slowly start to incorporate more Swahili into our weekly meetings.

I am thrilled to be staying at Duke and will be starting this July as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery, Division of Emergency Medicine!


This internal funding mechanism from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies encourages doctoral and master’s students to step away from their core research and training to acquire skills, knowledge, or co-curricular experiences that will give them new perspectives on their research agendas. Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants are intended to deepen preparation for academic positions and other career trajectories.

  • Read other GSTEG updates from this year’s grantees.
  • See who received grants for 2018-19.

Explore the 2017-2018 Bass Connections Projects

Bass Connections projects

Duke students from all levels and schools are invited to preview the new Bass Connections projects for 2017-2018. Applications will open on January 24 and run through February 17 at 5:00 p.m.

Bass Connections bridges the classroom and the real world, giving students a chance to roll up their sleeves and tackle complex societal challenges alongside faculty from across Duke. Working in interdisciplinary research teams, students at all levels collaborate with faculty, postdocs and outside experts on cutting-edge research that spans subjects and borders.

Most Bass Connections project teams engage with community partners outside Duke, including private companies, nonprofits, universities, school systems, hospitals and government agencies at the federal, state and local levels.

Forty-three projects across five themes will be offered in the 2017-2018 academic year. Most of these interdisciplinary teams last for two semesters; some have a summer component. Course credit and summer funding are available.

See the 2017-2018 projects by theme:

Through this intensive research experience, students and faculty work as a team to make a real-world impact. Each project team page contains a full project descriptions, anticipated outcomes, student opportunities, timelines and faculty team leaders.

Join Us at the Bass Connections Fair on January 24

Stop by the annual Bass Connections Fair on Tuesday, January 24 from 2:30 to 5:30 in the Energy Hub (first floor of Gross Hall).

Students of all levels can learn more about the Bass Connections project teams for 2017-2018 by talking with faculty team leaders and theme representatives. Tasty food and drinks will be available. Cohosted by the Energy Initiative.

Bass Connections Fair

Meet with an Advisor

For each student, discovering and developing a pathway through Bass Connections will be an individualized experience. Undergraduates can benefit from the guidance of Duke’s Directors of Academic Engagement, who offer individualized hour-long advising appointments to guide students through the process of integrating Bass Connections into their academic careers. Graduate students can access a number of resources to guide their pathways, and the professional schools offer tailored services to professional students.

Members of the Bass Connections Student Advisory Council are another resource for interested students.

Learn More

  • Check out examples of alumni who are pursuing further studies or working in a field related to their Bass Connections projects.

Doctoral Student Leads Study of Nursing Home Residents in China

Yuting Song

Yuting Song is a Ph.D. student at the School of Nursing. Last year she was a member of the Bass Connections project team Community Care of Frail Elders in Cross-cultural Settings. To extend her research beyond the project team, she applied for and received a Bass Connections Follow-on Student Research Grant mentored by Kirsten Corazzini, Bei Wu and Ellie McConnell. Back on campus after a summer in China, she shared an update.

I conducted my fieldwork from July to September in two nursing homes in China. With the support of the Bass Connections Follow-on Student Research grant, I was able to recruit 21 residents at different functional levels and explored their care needs related to physical function.

I gained more knowledge about care needs of residents who live in Chinese nursing homes, in addition to those of community-based frail elders. In combination with this Bass Connections project, the knowledge of older adults’ needs both in community settings and nursing homes will inform curriculum development for the healthcare workforce across different care settings.

Also, I was able to trial the Chinese version of the Social Convoy Questionnaire with two residents. By doing so, I got a better understanding of residents’ social networks and learned more about the feasibility of using this tool among the population of Chinese nursing home residents. The knowledge is valuable for designing future studies to explore social networks within Chinese nursing homes.

Older adults

I did not take any photos of the facilities, to maintain confidentiality of participants and the research sites; these two pictures are of older adults in communities, which is the focus population of the Bass Connections project.

Learn More

DGHI Offers Support for Environmental Health Pilot Projects

DGHI logo CORRECT ONEDeadline: November 2, 2016

The Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI) has released a request for proposals for pilot projects in global environmental health, one of our seven research priority areas.

DGHI periodically provides pilot funds to stimulate interdisciplinary research across its research priority areas, with the goal of enabling investigators to leverage preliminary findings and data to obtain further external funding. All Duke faculty are eligible to apply for the pilot grants.

Leaders in the DGHI’s global environmental health initiative are interested in receiving proposals that address the effect of various aspects of vulnerability—such as age, economic status, or genetics—on the relationship between environmental factors and health. Examples of relevant research themes include effects of climate change on emerging infectious disease; effects of urbanization on air pollution and human health; and access to safe drinking water.

Applicants may apply for up to $25,000 for projects lasting up to one year; smaller proposals for shorter periods are also encouraged. Applications must propose work in low and middle income countries, and applicants are encouraged to identify collaborating in-country investigators.

Special emphasis and consideration will be given for:

  • Collaborative and interdisciplinary proposals
  • Proposals that plan to leverage existing studies, population cohorts or data sets to address a novel global environmental health problem
  • Investigators new to global environmental health research
  • Projects proposed for collaboration in DGHI’s Priority Partnership Locations

A Pharmacology Student Opens a Door to a New World


Jun Wang received her Ph.D. in pharmacology and cancer biology this month. “My participation in this Bass Connections project is one of the most meaningful and rewarding Duke experiences I have had,” she writes. “It not only helped me land my first job, but also helped me find my true passion.” Jun is among four graduating Ph.D. students to be honored with the Duke Alumni Association’s Forever Duke Student Leadership Award.

My name is Jun Wang and I grew up in a coastal city called Dalian, located in the southern part of Liaodong Peninsula, on the east coast of China. Studying in the US and becoming a global citizen has always been my goal since I was a little girl. Duke helped me fulfill this goal in summer 2011 when I was provided a scholarship by the Chancellor to pursue a PhD in Pharmacology and Cancer Biology. I graduated in May 2016 and I’m relocating to Atlanta to work for a consulting company.

I believe in kinetic philanthropy and I have a passion for social entrepreneurship and global health. Therefore when I saw the Bass Connections project Evaluation of Scaling Innovative Healthcare Delivery in East Africa, I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do.

Bass Connections project team led by Joe Egger

As a team, we studied the drivers of scale for health-focused social entrepreneurs and the impact of these groups in improving health. We visited various social entrepreneurs and NGOs in Kenya and Rwanda, and carried out a research project on clinical quality improvement in resource-limited settings.

There were two undergraduate students and three graduate students on our team. We collaborated very closely and everyone participated in the discussion and research project. The undergraduate students learned about my area of research and the way I approach problems.

My participation in this Bass Connections project is one of the most meaningful and rewarding Duke experiences I have had. It not only helped me land my first job, but also helped me find my true passion.

Being a PhD student in science, my daily routine used to be doing experiments in the lab, going to research seminars, reading and writing papers and grants. Participating in this project has opened a door and led me to a completely new world. I got to work with an interdisciplinary team, learn from distinguished professors and scholars, interact with innovative social entrepreneurs and apply my ability to solve real-world problems. In this process, I found my real interest and passion, and I found what I’m good at.

Jun Wang (center) and fellow students on Bass Connections project team

Learn More

Post-Doc Bonnie Kaiser’s Work Blends Anthropology, Epidemiology and Humanities

Post-doctoral fellow Bonnie Kaiser joined the Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI) last August after completing a doctorate in anthropology and a master’s in public health in epidemiology at Emory University. Kaiser conducts global mental health research with a focus on cultural aspects of measurement, communication and intervention design, and it was DGHI’s growing global mental health initiative—along with her long-standing collaboration with DGHI faculty members Brandon Kohrt and Deborah Jenson—that drew her to Duke.

Kaiser’s PhD research, based primarily in Haiti, demonstrates how a nuanced cultural understanding of perceptions and experiences of mental illness can improve clinical communication and intervention design. Her publications have explored culturally-based idioms of distress and mental health communication, development and testing of transcultural measurement tools and treatment decision-making.

In Haiti, Kaiser explained, “people don’t talk about ‘depression’ or ‘anxiety.’ They use terms that actually mean something a little bit different, though there might be some overlap between the terms.” Understanding these differences is important, she says, because research suggests that effective communication in a clinical setting improves patient engagement with interventions, ultimately improving health outcomes. And this nuanced understanding also applies to developing, implementing and evaluating interventions.

Kaiser Looked at Resilience across Factors in Dissertation

Kaiser’s dissertation research in Haiti explored the broader topic of resilience. She conducted epidemiologic surveys to learn about people’s experiences related to mental health and resilience—including the traumatic events they experienced and their daily stressors, as well as their social supports.

From her large sample, she was able to identify two groups of people: those who appeared to have better mental health than predicted given past traumatic experiences, and those who had undergone similar exposures yet experienced mental distress as a result. She conducted follow-up interviews with about thirty participants and spent five months participating in the daily lives of eight of them to learn more about their experiences and their supports. Ultimately, her goal was to determine the factors that might explain the different mental health outcomes.

She’s currently expanding her dissertation into a book that explores the concept of “resilience” and how it can be useful as a research and public health construct to inform intervention development.

Kaiser’s Connection to Duke Goes Back Several Years

Eight years ago, Kohrt and Kaiser overlapped for a year at Emory while he was completing his PhD in anthropology. They continued to collaborate on Kaiser’s projects in Haiti as he stayed at Emory to complete his medical residency. She met Jenson through an opportunity at Duke’s Haiti Lab, which Jenson co-directs, about four years ago.

For the past few years, the three of them, along with Hunter Keys—a PhD in anthropology candidate at the University of Amsterdam—have been writing a book that examines ideas of trauma and mental health interventions in the context of Haiti. The book analyzes the post-earthquake mental health response in Haiti and critically explores assumptions about the universality of trauma experiences, suggesting instead that interventions be sensitive to the ways that individuals and cultural groups may be conceptualizing and experiencing trauma differently.

Kasier Is Helping to Launch New Health Humanities Lab

Currently, Kaiser’s main focus is developing the structure and programming of DGHI’s new Health Humanities Lab in collaboration with Kohrt, Jenson and associate global health professor Kearsley Stewart. Due to launch this fall, the Health Humanities Lab will engage students, faculty and partners in humanities questions in the context of global health through a range of activities, initiatives and resources.

“I’m really interested in how we can provide training opportunities for students to help them learn about and engage with the culture, language and history of their fieldwork sites to complement the methodological skills they’re developing through their courses,” Kaiser said. These opportunities might include web-based resources such as “cultural portfolios” developed by students and faculty members, creative partnerships to provide language instruction, seminars and conferences.

Kaiser is also involved in teaching courses and providing qualitative methods and analysis consulting at DGHI.

DGHI’S Appeal to Kaiser Is Multifaceted

Kaiser was attracted to DGHI because of its focus on global mental health and interdisciplinary research. “The way DGHI facilitates interdisciplinary interaction is so different than what I’ve seen elsewhere,” she said. “It’s so easy to interact with people in different fields here, and bringing multiple perspectives to a project is really exciting to me.” She’s especially looking forward to the interdisciplinary Bass Connections project she’ll be involved in starting this fall to establish a new global mental health integrative training program.

Kaiser also appreciates the fact that a number of DGHI faculty members conduct intervention research, an area of particular interest for her as she plans the next phase of her career. Another draw for her is the opportunity to help DGHI incorporate more qualitative methods and analysis training into the graduate curriculum. “Qualitative methods are becoming a more central part of global health work, so it’s exciting to see that DGHI is working to give students a strong foundation in qualitative research,” she said. “And I’m glad I can be a part of that.”

Originally posted on the Duke Global Health Institute website

Faculty Receive Bass Connections Awards to Develop Courses


Bass Connections has awarded four course development funds to groups of Duke faculty members whose pedagogical ideas will expand interdisciplinary curricular options for undergraduates as well as graduate and professional students.

This Spring an RFP invited Duke faculty, departments or schools to organize new courses or modify existing ones that align with one or more of the Bass Connections themes and are multidisciplinary, open to students at different levels and/or ask questions of societal importance. Such courses will augment theme leaders’ efforts to enrich the curricular pathways available to undergraduate and graduate students.

Managing Networks     

Submitted by Lisa Keister with Susan Alberts, Christopher Bail, Jonathon Cummings, James Moody, Martin Ruef

  • Faculty affiliations: Trinity College of Arts & Sciences (Biology, Evolutionary Anthropology, Sociology, Markets and Management Certificate Program); Fuqua School of Business; Nicholas School of the Environment (Marine Science and Conservation); Center for Population Health & Aging; Duke Institute for Brain Sciences; Duke Network Analysis Center; Duke Population Research Institute
  • Bass Connections theme: Information, Society & Culture

Networks are pervasive in the social, economic, political and natural worlds. Network data and methods – and concurrently our ability to conceptualize and analyze networks – have expanded dramatically in recent years, and Duke is a central location in which this research is being conducted. This course is about the role that networks play in organizations. It will involve multiple faculty from across schools, invite outside experts to provide guest lectures and include project-based assignments. Graduate students and post-docs from various disciplines will participate as assistants and project leaders.

Engineering and Anthropology of Biomedical Engineering (BME) Design in Uganda

Submitted by William Reichert and Kearsley Stewart

Dr. Reichert established the Duke-Makerere University in Kampala (MUK) BME Partnership in coordination with Duke BME, Duke Global Health Institute, Pratt School of Engineering, the Provost’s Office and the Duke Africa Initiative. The goal of this course is to integrate the design and anthropological elements of the Duke-MUK experience into a single course offered to both BME and global health undergraduate and graduate students. It will proceed pedagogically as a design class superimposed with the relevant anthropology of working directly with students in Uganda.

History of Global Health

Submitted by Nicole Barnes and Margaret Humphreys

  • Faculty affiliations: Trinity College of Arts & Sciences (History); School of Medicine; Duke Global Health Institute
  • Bass Connections theme: Global Health

The history of global health contains valuable perspectives for thinking through current health challenges. The course begins with the development of ancient medicine in Europe and China, and continues into the rise of biomedicine in the 19th and 20th centuries. It addresses particular diseases as case studies through which to explore important themes in global health history, and traces global circulations of people and commodities to show how international agencies, charities and governing bodies have spread both disease and the means to fight it.

Integrating Environmental Science and Policy

Submitted by Lori Bennear and Patrick Halpin

  • Faculty affiliations: Nicholas School of the Environment (Environmental Economics and Policy, Marine Science and Conservation); Trinity College of Arts & Sciences (Economics); Sanford School of Public Policy; Energy Initiative; Science & Society
  • Bass Connections theme: Energy

Environmental challenges are inherently multidisciplinary, drawing upon principles from ecology, earth sciences, biochemistry, economics, political science and ethics. Employing in-depth case studies, this course will explore the complex interactions that characterize current environmental problems. Course objectives include: exposing students to interdisciplinary approaches to environmental science and policy; allowing students to develop analytic tools to address environmental issues; and fostering collaborative group-based analytic experiences consistent with real-world environmental problem solving.

Faculty recipients of these course development funds will be invited to share their experiences at a luncheon or dinner at the end of year.

Learn how to get involved with Bass Connections.

Six Students Receive Grants to Extend Their Bass Connections Research


With grant funding from Bass Connections, three undergraduates and three graduate students will pursue faculty-mentored research projects this summer and next year.

These projects, which build on work begun in 2015-2016 through Bass Connections teams, explore a range of topics including Alzheimer’s disease, U.S. government regulations, intellectual property, migrant health, Arctic drilling and the care needs of senior citizens in China.

Kirsten Bonawitz ’17, a neuroscience major, will work on elucidating the role of genetics in the development of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. As a member of the Bass Connections project team Brain-immune Interactions in Neurodegenerative Disease, she collected neurons from normal and mild-cognitive impairment human brain samples, extracted RNA for the purpose of gene expression analysis and initiated the collection of neurons from mild and severe Alzheimer’s samples. “This project plays and will continue to play an important role in my academic and professional career,” Bonawitz said. “I plan to develop it into a senior thesis.” Her mentor is Ornit Chiba-Falek.

Mercy DeMenno is a Ph.D. student at the Sanford School of Public Policy. Her Bass Connections project team, Reviewing Retrospective Regulatory Review, examined the emergence and consequences of ex post assessment of regulations at the local, national and international levels. Taking this work further with the mentorship of Lori Bennear, DeMenno will analyze the role of public participation in U.S. agencies’ retrospective review processes. This research will serve as a pilot study for her dissertation on how bureaucratic institutional design can foster effective stakeholder participation, and in turn, better regulatory policy.

Kushal Kadakia ’19 will focus on developing novel incentive structures for pharmaceutical innovation. In his Bass Connections project team Innovation & Technology Policy Lab, he worked with the Global Health Innovation Alliances group to map the drug development partnerships formed in response to the Ebola and Zika outbreaks. Building on this research, Kadakia plans to create case studies and share findings about ways to develop incentives that can increase the rate of pharmaceutical innovation while decreasing the cost of medicine. His mentor is Julia Barnes-Weise.

Kristen Larson ’17 is a biology and global health major. Her research will focus on migration and illness narratives of mainland Hondurans who have moved to squatter communities (colonias) on the island of Roatán, fleeing mainland gang violence and seeking jobs in the tourism industry. “There has been no research conducted to formally describe the migration and illness experiences of the population living in las colonias,” said Larson, who is mentored by Dennis Clements. Her research, which she plans to use toward an honors thesis, will be conducted in coordination with her Bass Connections project team, Interculturally Competent Analysis of the Uptake of Routine Vaccination.

Megan Nasgovitz, who is pursuing a Master of Environmental Management in the Nicholas School of the Environment, will assess the economic, environmental and political implications of Shell’s decision to suspend drilling in Alaska. “This year in Bass Connections I have been fortunate enough to work with exceptional students and faculty across the Duke community as we dig into the topic of the History and Future of Ocean Energy,” she said. She plans to travel to Alaska to conduct interviews and administer a survey in small indigenous towns, and present findings at the Polar Law Symposium in October. She is mentored by Douglas Nowacek and Lori Bennear.

Yuting Song is a Ph.D. student in the School of Nursing. Mentored by Kirsten Corazzini, Bei Wu and Ellie McConnell, she will extend the target population of her Bass Connections project team, Community Care of Frail Elders in Cross-cultural Settings, to include frail elders in residential care facilities in China. Her research aims are to describe the care needs of Chinese older adults who live in residential care facilities and experience cognitive and/or physical decline, and to explore the feasibility of using the Chinese version of the Social Convoy Questionnaire to measure the residents’ social networks within the care facilities.

These grants are part of ongoing efforts to provide support to students who build on their Bass Connections experiences through capstone research projects. Learn how to get involved with Bass Connections.

Clockwise from upper left: Mercy DeMenno, Kushal Kadakia, Kristen Larson, Yuting Song, Megan Nasgovitz, Kirsten Bonawitz.