By: Angela Huang

Across the past 6 years with Duke, Dr. Joy Noel Baumgartner has done incredible work within the fields of global mental health, studying maternal mental health, psychotic disorders and HIV/RH services in low resources settings across the world. She acts as the Director of the Evidence Lab and the Global Mental Health Working Group in Duke’s Global Health Institute. Furthermore, she acts as an Associate Research Professor of global health teaching classes related to maternal and child health. She also collaborates as a Faculty Network Member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. She has conducted research everywhere from Tanzania to Jamaica, exploring how various community interventions may improve mental health and reproductive health.

To highlight her recent work, she’s worked with other researchers in Duke and Guatemala to examine the factors that may prevent or promote implementing a perioperative patient safety program in the Roosevelt Hospital in Guatemala. They found that limited resources, leadership engagement, and knowledge were significant hurdles to overcome in implementing the patient safety program; on the other hand, they found that the staff were highly motivated, and the program was compatible with programs already implemented in the hospital. Furthermore, staff often recognized and prioritized patient needs, and had a positive attitude while caring for their patients. By studying these barriers and facilitators, they were able to get a better grasp on what was necessary to modify within their perioperative patient safety program and generally improve the implementation process.

This past March and May, Dr. Baumgartner has also published work regarding family planning and the importance of community health workers in Ghana. In “Side effect concerns and their impact on women’s uptake of modern family planning methods in rural Ghana: a mixed methods study,” she explores how anticipated side effects of modern contraceptive affected their use among women in Ghana. She and her fellow researchers found that approximately 70% women had unmet needs for modern family planning, and that the aversion to modern contraceptives originated from concerns about side effects, including menstrual changes, infertility, and complications with childbirth. This study indicated the ongoing importance of addressing these side effects and their misconceptions in order to reduce unintended pregnancies. In “’I have a lot of faith in her’: Value of community health workers in addressing family planning in rural Ghana,” Dr. Baumgartner explores the role of community health workers in addressing family planning problems. They found that community health workers were valued for their confidentiality, accessibility, and comfort. This study demonstrated the vital role these workers played in supporting family planning in under-resourced communities.

Dr. Baumgartner has been an absolute inspiration within the Duke community for her work in both global mental and reproductive health: her unfailing efforts to support under-resourced communities and work on implementing important and necessary programming in a variety of settings is positively moving. We will sincerely miss her and her unwavering dedication and bid her well in her future ventures!


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