As we just finished the end of the spring semester, we wanted to highlight the work of two of our talented students: Ema Kuczura and Sarah Hubner.

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

Ema: I am originally from Chicago, IL. I recently graduated Duke where I majored in Public Policy and Global Health. I am a member of the Duke Women’s Rowing team where I am finishing up my last season. While at Duke, I also participated in the Rubenstein-Bing Athlete Civic Engagement program, served as Co-President of the One Love student club, and served on the executive board of Duke SHAPE (Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention and Education).

Sarah: I am originally from Long Island, New York. I studied Political Science with a concentration in Security Peace, and Conflict and Global Health, and pursued a Markets and Management Studies Certificate. I have long been interested in the intersection of US foreign policy and economic development on health outcomes among marginalized populations in the Global South. During my time at Duke, I was a four-year member of the NCAA Women’s Rowing team, and involved in Duke Business Oriented Women (BOW), the Kenan Institute’s Supporting Women’s Action Program (SuWa), and a Bass Connections Team designing a marketing a low-cost laparoscope for use in low- and middle-income countries. Over the course of my Duke experience, I studied abroad in Geneva, Switzerland and at the University of Oxford. 

Q: What made you interested in reproductive health? 

Ema: My first academic exposure to reproductive health and rights was in Dr. Huchko’s class Global Reproductive Health during my sophomore fall. After that class, I became increasingly interested in the social determinants of health, especially when it comes to vulnerable populations such as women and girls. I got involved with the center through the Student Research Training Program where Sarah and I applied to conduct research in Kisumu, Kenya on reproductive health and rights.

Sarah: I took Dr. Huchko’s Global Reproductive Health Class my sophomore fall, and since then have been interested in reproductive health issues and their intersection with American politics and the legacy of Western imperialism. As a junior, I heard about the opportunity to work on Global Gag Rule research in Kisumu through the DGHI Student Research Training Program with the Center, and knew the project would be the perfect amalgamation of my personal and academic interests. When my summer with SRT ended, I stayed on with the Center, working as a Research Assistant for DGHI Doctoral Scholar, Kelly Hunter through a Global Health research independent study.

Q: Tell us about the project you worked on for the Center. 

Ema: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the scope of our project shifted greatly. Nevertheless, our work was very fulfilling and eye-opening. Instead of conducting research on site in Kisumu, we opted to conduct virtual interviews with reproductive health-oriented civil society organizations and advocates in Kenya. These interviews were a memorable and meaningful experience for me. I enjoyed learning about people’s missions, challenges, and breakthroughs. The experts we spoke to were incredibly passionate about the work they were doing in the field, and it was inspiring to hear about the kinds of coalitions reproductive health advocates have been able to build even in the face of the pandemic and dozens of other barriers.

Sarah: Predominantly, I worked with Kelly Hunter and Ema Kuczura on a qualitative, key-informant interview based research study aimed at gauging the intersecting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy (The Global Gag Rule) on the sexual and reproductive health and rights civil society landscape and access to care for women, girls and other marginalized groups in Kenya. At the Center, I also had the opportunity to interview Kenyan experts on the treatment and prevention of Cervical Cancer from a health systems perspective and to assist in designing a survey instrument measuring women’s empowerment in response to a cervical cancer community education intervention.

Q: What has been your favorite part of working with the Center?

Ema: My favorite part of working with the Center has been getting to know so many people who are passionate about reproductive health and rights. My SRT mentors Dr. Megan Huchko and Kelly Hunter have taught me so much throughout the year, and my SRT teammates have also helped me grow as a student and researcher. Our project working with organizers and healthcare professionals in Kenya has also allowed me to meet amazing people that I would never have had the opportunity to meet and learn from otherwise.

Sarah: My favorite part about working with the Center was the ability, through our Zoom Interview process, to collaborate across oceans with some of the most-dedicated and knowledgeable Kenyan leaders in the sexual and reproductive health and rights advocacy space. Seeing the passion and commitment they bring to their work was inspiring as a young Global Health professional, and gave me a lot of hope for the future of the field.

Q: What have been some of your favorite memories at Duke?

Ema: It’s hard to think of my favorite Duke memories as a few distinct moments. I think for me, my favorite memories have been the in between moments of day to day life: long nights trapped in Perkins with friends, rushed WU lunches, and meeting people on the quad you haven’t seen in a while. Although these parts of Duke life have stopped because of the pandemic, I still cherish those memories. The transitions, small talk, and new faces are a big part of what makes Duke such a lively place to be a part of and I hope that in the coming years, student regain that kind of environment.

Sarah: I have too many memories at Duke to choose just one!! From medaling at the ACC Women’s Rowing Championships, to basketball games in Cameron Indoor, and even late nights in studying in Vondy with friends who became family, I am forever grateful for my time at Duke, and the people who made my experience so amazing. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

Ema: As of now, my plans for the future are uncertain, however, I hope to bring all the knowledge and excitement I found at Duke to whatever I do. I am looking to pursue a career in public policy, focusing on social and political justice for low-income Americans. The lessons I have learned in my Global Health coursework and Center research has greatly influenced my vision for my future. Even on a policy-oriented path, DGHI’s focus on topics such as the social determinants of health and various forms of health stigma has prepared me to analyze public policy issues while keeping health equity in mind.

Sarah: Following, graduation, I will be completing my NCAA rowing season, and finalizing work on another peer-reviewed submission with Kelly and Ema. In June, I will be relocating to Washington D.C., and working as legal analyst at a boutique law firm prior to applying to law school. Eventually, I look to continue promoting the mission of the Center, and utilizing my Global Health education in a career in international human rights and international humanitarian law or health policy.  


We’re so grateful that Ema and Sarah worked with us during their time at Duke, and we’re excited to see what they’ll do in the future!

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