With classes back in session, the halls are flowing with students talking about the trials and triumphs of their summers—whether they were in the field, interning in DC, trying out consulting work or just had an amazing vacation. The new school year brings with it a sense of new beginning and purpose—and sometimes an overwhelming feeling of everything needing to get “scheduled” during these first weeks of September.  A colleague recently started an email with the greeting: “did you have a relaxing or productive summer?  I feel like it’s either one or the other.”  It made me reflect on how we take advantage of being out of the classroom, trying to fit in various opportunities for travel, fieldwork and writing time that become harder during the semester, while also taking time to regroup and relax with family and friends. I hope everyone was able to have a little balance this summer, and come into the new school year with renewed energy and enthusiasm.

Summer break allows us the privilege of working with learners in new settings. We had a team of three Data+ students working to develop a machine-learning algorithm to better understand and predict contraceptive use patterns from the Demographic and Health Survey Data. Being part of a full-time 10-week immersive research experience gave them a valuable experience that will prepare them for the post-graduation workforce, while allowing them the time and research to dig deeply into the research questions. We are excited to have them continue their work through out BD4RH Bass Connections projects this year.

We also are welcoming back students from their fieldwork. The Kisumu Center office hosted three SRT students, a Masters’ student and an ob/gyn resident. They’ve all been sharing their impressions on the website, and I’ve been impressed with the breadth of experiences they’ve had, and the resilience and creativity they’ve shown in troubleshooting some of the inevitable challenges in global health work. Some will continue their work through theses or manuscripts, and we’re hoping to showcase all of the projects through upcoming conferences in the triangle and around the states.

We’re hoping to channel the energy and enthusiasm of these students through some new Center opportunities. We’re looking for interested students to make up a Student Advisory Board that will convene journal clubs around an upcoming series of speakers on reproductive and maternal health in Africa. We’ll meet prospective students on September 11, from 12-1:30 in the Brodhead Center, 216.

Finally, the new semester comes with a few bittersweet transitions for the Center. Core Center member Gita Suneja is moving to the University of Utah, where she will continue the work in cancer outcomes disparities among women living with HIV. Our colleague Amy Finnegan is leaving Duke to become a senior data scientist at Intrahealth, where she will lead a group looking at digital health solutions. We are lucky that Amy will continue to co-lead the BD4RH Bass Connections group this year. Finally, Faith Otewa is stepping down as the Center Office Manager; her hard work over the first two years has been much appreciated as we transition Sandra Oketch to the role of Site Research Director for the Center. We wish everyone the best of luck with their new endeavors!


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