Teammate Spotlight: Sandra Oketch

Sandra Yvonne Oketch has been working with Dr. Megan Huchko and the FACES team the Nyanza Region of western Kenya for the past ten years. She has 10 years’ work experience in both health research and program set up in maternal reproductive health and HIV/ AIDS care and prevention. She started as a Clinical and Community Health Advisor at FACES, where she became interested in the cervical cancer screening and prevention program. After going back to school to complete her degree, she is now the study coordinator of a cluster randomized trial testing two implementation strategies for HPV testing. Her roles include managing the study team, partnering with the reproductive health team to implement study activities and evaluating some of the study data. The work of enrolling and following up almost ten thousand women is not without challenges. In addition to the inherent challenges of coordinating a study that size, Oketch has had to deal with flooding, flyaway tents, political...
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Nimmi Ramanujam

Faculty Profile: Nimmi Ramanujam Dr. Nimmi Ramanujam serves as the Robert W. Carr, Jr., Professor of Biomedical Engineering, a Professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, and a Research Professor of Global Health at Duke University. Since arriving at Duke twelve years ago, Dr. Ramanujam has founded the Global Women’s Health Technologies Center and the Tissue Optical Spectroscopy Laboratory, through which she researches cervical and breast cancers, women’s health disparities, and the development of diagnostic tools for implementation in low-resource settings. Her team is currently developing a Point of Care Tampon (POCkeT) Colposcope, which will allow women to screen themselves for cervical cancer.   Dr. Ramanujam took a break from her work to discuss cancer research, technology uptake, and the importance of focusing on the horizon of global health innovation.   How did you decide what technologies to work on?   For Dr. Ramanujam, who had already conducted research on cervical and breast cancers, choosing to concentrate on cervical cancer was about prioritizing the “next generation of problems”...
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Melissa Watt

Faculty Profile: Melissa Watt  With research projects in Tanzania and Ghana, and interests ranging from mother-to-child-transmission of HIV to prevention of fetal alcohol syndrome to family planning to sexual trauma, Associate Professor of the Practice Dr. Melissa Watt is a proficient and passionate force in the field of gender-based health research at Duke.   We sat down with Dr. Watt in her office at the Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI) to learn what sparked her interest in global health, what has defined her time as a Duke faculty member, and what excites her about the future.   How did you become involved in global health and choose reproductive health as a focus for your work?   Referencing a process of self-discovery to which her students might relate, Dr. Watt recalled her undergraduate work in African Studies and Public Policy, which aligned with her passion for “international development and how development can best be transformative for women’s equality and women’s rights.”   After completing her undergraduate program at the...
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Blandina Mmbaga

Faculty Profile: Blandina Mmbaga Dr. Blandina Mmbaga is the Director of the Kilimanjaro Clinical Research Institute and a pediatrician at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center (KCMC). She has collaborated with Duke University for over 10 years and currently serves as a site leader for the KCMC-Duke collaboration. Her work in reproductive health includes evaluating strategies to prevent mother-to-child-transmission of HIV and working to improve transitions of care and addressing RH needs for perinatally infected adolescents. We sat down with Dr. Blandina Mmbaga to talk about her work in Tanzania and what she believes are some of the biggest reproductive health challenges in her region. What are the key reproductive health priorities for Tanzania? Dr. Mmbaga described several systemic health challenges such as infant nutrition, maternal health, and unmet need for family planning.  She feels that one of the biggest challenges, despite available treatment mechanisms, is the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV. “It remains a challenge because there are still new infections”....
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