School of Public Health faculty and students have actively engaged in research, service and education activities aimed at improving health across the globe and partnering with communities to accomplish these goals since the school's launch in 2007. While the impact of their work has been felt around the world, in countries as diverse as Cuba, Bangladesh, Peru and Tanzania, awareness of these global health activities – and coordination across the UMD campus – will be elevated through a new Global Health Initiative, announced July 2018 by Dean Boris Lushniak. Research Professor Dina L.G. Borzekowski, Ed.D., is serving as the interim director. You may contact her with questions.
Also, you may subscribe to our global health listserv by emailing Dr. Elisabeth Maring, director of global health engagement.
Our Travel Blog - SPH UMD Community Members Report from Around the World
Undergrads Roohali Sukhavasi and Sarah Yang describe their global health internship - right in Baltimore
My internship at the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health(CVD-GH) has been an invaluable experience in clinical operations, data collection, and data management. I
now have both an understanding and an appreciation for the resources, time, and effort required to allow a project or study to come to fruition. The work I have done coincides with global health
as I have established data collection systems for clinical studies that intend to provide vaccines for diseases prevalent within developing countries. Specifically, the 12 countries that the CVD
currently has partnerships with include Mali, Malawi, Gambia, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Uganda, Chile, Nepal, Bangladesh, Samoa, and Ethiopia. Within each country, there are
targeted diseases that the CVD focuses on eradicating.
I have been involved in the vaccine development clinical studies for the following diseases: Cytomegalovirus, Universal Mosquito-borne Disease, Influenza, Malaria, Hantaan and Puumala Virus, Rabies, and Shigella. Regarding morbidity, mortality, disability, and prevalence, these diseases are of considerable concern. The time I have spent contributing to these projects has provided perspective on how to approach global health and the numerous moving parts that are attributable to the success of a project.
Reviewing sponsorships and grants, along with attending the Global Health Summit, the greatest challenge for groups tackling global health challenges is funding. The ability to secure funds and utilize them effectively is integral to initiating, proceeding, and completing a project. From on the ground, grassroots operations to large corporations and governments, nothing can occur without a source of funding. This realization goes hand in hand with my experience in approval processes and timelines for project execution. Overall, this internship has given me access to a variety of components that make up initiatives to advance global health as well as
skills to contribute to this progression.
As a student intern at the CVD, my main job this summer was to aid in research participant recruitment. This entailed creating flyers to advertise the many studies that were going on, putting these flyers up around the surrounding campus, community outreach, as well as conducting phone screening and assisting the nurse research coordinators with any tasks they needed help with. I won’t lie; at first, I struggled to understand how the work I was doing connected to “global” health. How did advertising research studies connect to aiding people in the global arena? But one day, as the clinic was conducting check-ups with some of the volunteers participating in ongoing trials, it clicked.
My job, along with the jobs of every other staff and faculty member at the CVD, all work to improve the field of global health. We might not be working along the frontlines, at the sites of poverty and disease, but the work we do here from home is just as important. Without the doctors and scientists here, we would not be able to develop vaccines to send to those who need it. Without the nurse coordinators, studies would not be able to be conducted. Without our research participants, we would not be able to test these vaccines to ensure they are safe and efficacious. I have realized the extent of just how many people impact the field of global health;
global health workers are not limited to those traveling to the frontlines of inequality and poverty, but are also the men and women working behind the scenes. Every single person’s contributions are invaluable and without all of our local helpers, the scope of our impact on the global stage is greatly reduced. This experience has made me infinitely more appreciative of the endless hours of hard work that goes on behind the scenes to produce the vaccines that will be used to improve the lives of others in the global arena.
PhD candidate Laura Drew reflects on her third trip to Siera Leone
I have been traveling to Sierra Leone with University of Maryland’s Public Health without Borders teams since 2016. This year was my third trip and it was probably my most memorable travel experience to Sierra Leone. It wasn’t because the team was amazing and everyone got along well, it wasn’t because I am more familiar with the country, it wasn’t because I can now speak a few sentences in Krio, and it wasn’t because we decided to enjoy traditional Sierra Leonean dishes at every possible meal. While all of those experiences added to the trip, this year was most memorable because I saw the benefits of having a long-lasting relationship with a community.
Since my first semester at UMD in Fall of 2015, I have been working with the Abigail D. Butscher School and Calaba Town community. I didn’t know a course assignment would lead to long-lasting relationships with so many people in Sierra Leone. On every trip, my role has changed. I’ve led research projects, trained undergrads, and served as a liaison in ways and for purposes that I never thought I would. It’s been a learning experience, it’s been rewarding, and it has also been hard work. Language barriers, cultural differences, time changes, technological challenges, and being half way across the world are only some of the challenges that come with international research projects. But all of those challenges don’t matter.
I initially joined PHWB because I love global health and it was a way to incorporate that discipline into my graduate studies. However, my reasons for staying involved in PHWB have changed. Yes, I love global health and international experiences are one-of-a-kind opportunities where we often hear we “learn more from others” and similar sayings, but PHWB gave me other experiences. I built relationships with undergraduate students who see me as a mentor. Watching students go from a university classroom in College Park to a primary school classroom in Sierra Leone is one thing, but then watching them go to masters programs, become Global Health Fellows, or join the Peace Corps has allowed me to witness just how the knowledge they gained in PHWB has influenced their educational and career trajectories. I’ve stayed involved with PHWB not just because it quenched my thirst for international research, but because I am committed to the mission of the organization. PHWB focuses on building relationships through partnerships with community members to promote sustainable health education initiatives both locally and abroad. It is because of those relationships that I continue to be involved with PHWB.
This year’s trip was filled with highlights that I will never forget. We managed our way throughout the country during a brief fuel shortage, we observed an Ebola response simulation workshop at the Ministry of Health, and we met Dr. Chipungu, who is the only fistula surgeon in the entire country. Interviews, data collection, and health education workshops also filled our days at the Abigail D. Butscher School. It was a busy, exciting, and meaningful trip. As exciting as all of it was, the best part of the trip was seeing familiar faces, getting updates from parents about how their children are doing now that they are in secondary school, and seeing the students in class six prepare for secondary school, who I first met when they were in class three. I will always be an outsider when I travel to Sierra Leone, but I am so grateful that the Calaba Town community and Abigail D. Butscher school continues to welcome me into their community. I no longer need to introduce myself, we greet each other with hugs rather than handshakes, and it is always nice to see familiar faces year after year. It is because of those faces that I will continue to be involved in PHWB. The Calaba Town community has shared their knowledge, insight, and time with the PHWB Sierra Leone travel teams. We have a relationship with them, and it is our responsibility to continue to foster that relationship, so that our partnership will lead to the health outcomes they hope to achieve. It is always hard to say “goodbye” to the Calaba Town community, but I know it isn’t the end of our story. We’ll work throughout the school year to ensure we can develop the health education workshops they have requested. Some of us will return to Sierra Leone, and some of us will be starting new chapters in new places. However, the relationship PHWB has with the Calaba Town community will continue, and it is that partnership that allows us to achieve the mission of PHWB.
Reva Datar's thoughts on the June 2019 PHWB Sierra Leone Experience
Last month, I, along with two other graduate students and four undergraduates from UMD’s Public Health Without Borders (PHWB) student organization, traveled to Calaba Town, Sierra Leone to present health education workshops to students and community members at the Abigail D. Butscher School. The undergraduates presented health education workshops to students and adults in the community on topics such as handwashing, nutrition, first aid, malaria typhoid, cholera, and oral rehydration. As a graduate student, my role was to facilitate the PHWB travel team with the collection of data on: a) health-related issues students wanted to learn more about, b) health behaviors of students in the community, and c) whether students found the workshops informative and useful.
Like most graduate students, I often find myself hesitant to take on opportunities that will delay or deviate from my PhD pursuits. I am interested in mentorship and teaching as well as global health research and it can often be hard to find opportunities that support all of these interests. Thus, I feel extremely lucky to have been presented with the opportunity to take part in a trip through the University that allowed me to give my time to mentoring undergraduate students while simultaneously enriching my own knowledge and background of global health and health systems in low-resource settings.
In addition to mentoring undergraduates on both qualitative and quantitative data collection methods, our travel team took time to meet with health care providers at Connaught Hospital and Aberdeen Women’s
Clinic, health researchers at the University of Sierra Leone, and policymakers at the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health (MoH). A particular highlight of the trip was observing an Ebola simulation conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at the MoH. The simulation was the longest the MoH has undergone since the outbreak was contained in 2016. It was fascinating to watch real public health practitioners work through their preparedness and response plans.
Our two-week trip was an extremely fulfilling experience as each day included the mentoring of undergraduate students as well as the development of new relationships with students and community members in Calaba Town. The people involved in this project and the wonderful relationship established between UMD and the Abigail D. Butscher School made this an extremely rewarding experience and I look forward to seeing the results of our work in the coming months!
An Undergraduate’s Reflection of PHWB’s Sierra Leone Trip
By: Danielle Gans
In June of 2019 I was given the opportunity to travel to Sierra Leone with Public Health Without Borders. Going in, I had no idea what to expect from this trip. I knew the group taught health education workshops to the students of the Abigail D. Butscher school as well as the adults in the community in Calaba Town for a few years. However, even knowing that, I had no idea what was in store for me. One thing I kept reminding myself was that everything would be more clear once I got into the country, but I could already tell it was going to be an amazing experience.
I was incredibly nervous before presenting in front of the children. However, walking into the classroom, I felt a warm welcome from all of the students as well as the teachers. The first day we went over handwashing with each class which gave us a chance to get acquainted with the school and the students. The children were very receptive and most of them loved singing the song one of the teachers, Ms. Margaret, taught them.
The next few days involved conducting both interviews with the kids in class 6 as well as presenting workshops to the students in class 5 and 6. Sitting down with individual students in class 6 was interesting because we got to hear first hand from them what they wanted to learn about and the health problems they face in their own community. I had never been involved in qualitative research before and I was excited to get a chance to listen to the perspectives of each child. By the time we presented the first workshop on first aid, I was no longer intimidated because talking to the students, I understood how kind and how open to learning they were. They loved the workbooks and were very attentive and active during the demonstrations. My favorite part was watching them bandage each other’s arms and them showing us how they tied them. Teaching the same workshops to adults was a little more daunting. The community members were also kind and welcoming and we discovered there were some cultural differences in safety procedures. However, the discussions remained friendly and we learned from each other.
The time outside of the school was also beneficial. We were fortunate enough to see the Connaught Hospital, the Ministry of Health, and the College of Medicine and Health Services and talk to several people about their work in Sierra Leone and about the Ebola crisis. My favorite stop out of all of them was the Aberdeen Women’s Centre. Seeing the work this organization is doing to help care for pregnant women before, during and after delivery was amazing. We were also given a tour of the facility from the only obstetric fistula surgeon in the country and hearing her story was incredible.
The trip was 100 times better than I could have ever imagined. Working with the kids, learning about their needs as well as the needs of the community, and working in collaboration with them was truly amazing.
Rhea Gupta's Reflections on Travels to Sierra Leone in June 2019
My trip to Sierra Leone was anything but what I expected it to be. The environment, the people, my peers, everything was something I was so pleasantly surprised with.
Arriving to the airport was an overwhelming and surprising. People surrounded us asking to take our bags and yet I had no idea who I could trust. And when we arrived at the hotel, the heat, bugs, lizards, and changing color of lights in our room definitely took some time to get used to. However, once we got settled and had a few days to ourselves to relax, adapt, and explore, we were ready to get to work.
On our first day, the first thing I remember was pulling up to the school and seeing the bright smiles on everyone’s face. You could feel the excitement in the air as we got ready to get the day started. Our first workshop of the week was the hand-washing workshop. We went into each classroom and talked through all of the steps of properly washing your hands. As time went by, I started to take the lead on this workshop and really get involved with the kids, going through each step and making sure they could understand and follow what I was doing. After a few classrooms, it was lunchtime. I definitely did not know what we were about to experience. All of the kids started surrounding us, asking us what our name is, what my mom looks like, what my favorite sport is, and why I’m so tall. At one point, I had two kids holding on to each leg and each arm. They would just come up to me and start holding my hand. The love and excitement that we got every day was what pushed us to work so hard every day. I was able to see why we spent the last year working on planning workshops and research for the kids and community members.
With all of our work, although we faced some challenges with materials and inquiries from conducting the workshops with the adults, our efforts turned out to be highly successful. We accomplished all of our goals and were able to finally implement and complete post-workshop evaluations. None of this would have been possible without having the amazing team that we did. We all worked together to divide up the work and make sure that we were all on the same page with everything that we did.
Not only were we successful with the work that we set out to accomplish, we were also very successful in getting to explore Freetown when we had some time. We were able to visit the chimpanzee sanctuary, go to river no. 2 beach, and enjoy Mariama’s fries on Lumley beach.
We all had a great time and were able to make great connections with the community and among ourselves. I hope that future travel teams have the same or an even better experience.
Undergraduate Public Health Sciences Student Kajal Parikh Reflects on Her Recent Trip to Peru
I’m not going to lie. I had a difficult time writing this post because words and pictures do not give this experience justice. But, I am going to try my best to encapsulate the most amazing two weeks in just a few short paragraphs.
From the minute we met Anibal, Martha, Anibal Jr., Elvis, and Leo, our host family, we were greeted with the warmest welcome. Even though they had just experienced a death in their family that same day, they still came to personally pick us up from our hostel in Cusco and drive us to Compone, which just speaks volumes of their endless kindness.
The kindness emanated from Anibal’s family extended to the entire community. The principals of the primary and secondary schools were so gracious to set aside some of their already planned lessons in order to accommodate our interventions into the schedule. I remember the first time that we had a presentation - all the nervousness and excitement - but the moment that we stepped into the classroom, the students’ friendliness melted the nervousness away. With each subsequent presentation, we were able to strengthen our intervention and meet another new class of students. The best aspect was that the interventions went beyond merely a presentation where the presenter is mostly talking. Through all of the ice-breakers and discussions held, real conversations had transpired, and an exchange of culture happened.
One of my favorite parts of the adolescent development intervention was the “Cross the Line” game. Seeing the students feel comfortable enough to step forward during the game to acknowledge their changes in relationships with family/friends, body changes, and emotional challenges was such a great bonding moment between our team and the students. This connection formed through a sense of commonality, since adolescent development is a process that we all undergo.
After our adolescent development intervention and nutrition workshop, the students at the secondary school asked us to sing the U.S. national anthem, and in exchange, we asked them to sing the Peruvian national anthem. This was so impressive because they sang it in both Spanish and Quechua, the indigenous language in the region. The exchange did not stop there. After the students asked us what the U.S. national dance is, we taught the whole class the Cotton Eye Joe.
The most impactful takeaway was emphasized by our amazing mentor and professor, Dr. Hurtado, who repeatedly stated that these kinds of trips are so powerful because learning occurs bidirectionally. While our interventions were educational, I believe our team learned more from our partner community. Martha, our host mother, eagerly shared her gift for cooking and recipes with us. Local governmental public health workers who hosted nutritional interventions for expecting women and mothers to young children taught us so much about dietetics and Peruvian food culture.
The time outside of the clinic and schools was just as memorable. From playing soccer with our host family’s nephew to traveling via a combi, a local bus, with other town members to buy local pastries to walking to a picturesque river that was staged by the Andes in the background, it was all just unbelievable to experience in person.
Master of Public Health Student Nicole Haggerty Reflects on Her Recent Trip to Sierra Leone
In June 2018, I had the opportunity to travel with the Public Health Without Borders (PHWB) team to Sierra Leone. We visited Calaba Town, a community located near the capital city, Freetown, to strengthen the partnership between the Abigail D. Butcher School and the University of Maryland that was formed in 2014. The initial goal of this trip was to conduct public health education workshops for the community, focusing on nutrition, water sanitation and chronic diseases. Two undergraduate students led each topic, while the rest of the team was there to support and lead small breakout discussion groups. The workbooks we used were designed and created by undergraduate PHWB members. While these workshops were incredibly valuable and a great experience--I learned just as much, if not more, from the community.
After hearing more from the community about their public health needs and desire for a community clinic and access to hospitals, our team shifted our focus to health advocacy.
We were able to meet with community members and discuss strategies to possibly build and staff a clinic. By drawing comparisons to the establishment of the school and empowering community members, our team helped identify future goals and objectives to building a community-based health clinic establishing transportation options.
As a public health student who has studied community health systems, non-governmental organizations and global health work, it was fascinating to learn more about the local public health resources in Freetown first-hand. We visited the offices of Partners in Health, an organization that is working with local and national officials to strengthen the health systems in Sierra Leone. Partners in Health was founded by Paul Farmer, who has dedicated his life to improving global health and poverty. It was inspiring to hear about real work and projects being done around the world and the different employment opportunities within the broad field of global health.
We were also able to walk through the local market and tour a clinic whose services include HIV testing and counseling, labor; delivery, malaria treatment and immunizations. They have about 10 births and see about 100 malaria patients a week, and offer all of these services at no cost to patients. They are government-funded but also receive support from several NGOs. Unfortunately, the clinic is not always accessible to many people near the school, as roads can be difficult to walk, especially in more urgent situations. Meeting with the clinic staff made the health care system issues much more tangible for me, and helped me understand just how far and difficult the walk could be for some individuals.
Photo of the UMD team with Jon Lascher after a visit to the Partners in Health Offices in Freetown.
Undergraduate Public Health Major Zill Parikh Reflects on Her Time in Dar es Salaam, Working at the Ubongo Production Studios.
Ubongo, which means “brain” in Swahili, is Africa’s number one producer of kids’ edutainment cartoon television shows. Their mission is to foster learning in children ages 3-13 through fun and unique characters and storylines. Based in Tanzania, Ubongo produces two hit shows: Akili and Me, tailored for ages 3-6, and Ubongo Kids for ages 7-13. Akili and Me focuses on teaching younger audiences the basics like letters, numbers, and shapes through games and catchy songs that will forever remain engraved in your memory. Ubongo Kids teaches a variety of STEM topics and important life skills for this age group.
This summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Tanzania and work on pre-production material for next year’s season of Akili and Me. My work mainly focused on researching the causes of under 5 mortality in East Africa (specifically in Tanzania) and formatting that information into prototypes to test with small groups young kids. Based on the feedback received from the kids, we created informational and entertaining ways that the content could be written into the script as 2-3 minute segments and taught through the show’s beloved cartoon characters.
Nutrition, handwashing, and road safety were the three topics we settled on after reading many studies about malnutrition and road traffic related deaths. Akili and Me already had a handwashing song created, so we tailored the segments around discussing the different times children should absolutely wash their hands. We did the same for road safety and created situations in which the cartoon characters could cross the road safely. For nutrition, we decided to focus on characterizing foods as good and bad, explaining that there are many different types of foods that make us “big and strong.”
I had a few smaller projects on the side which included writing grants and gathering research on topics that Ubongo Kids plans to tackle in the future such as female genital mutilation, female empowerment, consent, gender rights, dengue fever, schistosomiasis, and tuberculosis. Researching these topics and creating possible storylines for the show was pretty neat because I already had some background knowledge thanks to my public health classes. It’s refreshing to see that the things we learn in school are actually applicable in the real world!
I’ll say that this was certainly an interesting experience because I didn’t realize the amount of work that goes into something as seemingly simple as a cartoon TV show. I’ve had previous experience working with young kids in Sierra Leone through an on campus student organization called Public Health Without Borders. I taught health education workshops through hands-on activities, so this time around I found it difficult to approach teaching through a media platform. Tapping into the creative side of my brain was something I’m not used to doing. Needless to say, I still enjoyed working on that project because it challenged me to step outside of my comfort zone and try new things in the world of health education.
Sitting behind a computer and researching major health concerns weren’t the only things I did during my time in country. Each weekend, a few interns and I would travel around the country and see as much as we possibly could in 48 hours. I've included a few of my favorite pictures from those trips that give me happiness each time I look at them.
Golden hour mealtime at the end of day one on our safari - Mikumi National Park
Donor Support for the Global Health Initiative
Global Public Health Scholars
The Global Public Health (GPH) program, sponsored by the School of Public Health, offers an interdisciplinary examination of the complex connections between health, culture, economic growth and development, and environmental sustainability. First and second-year College Park Scholars students who participate in the GPH program gain an understanding of the conceptual and practical foundations of community health, explore global public health challenges and consider ways to improve population health within diverse contexts. Dr. Elisabeth Maring directs the GPH Scholars program. Visit the GPH Scholars website for more info.
Certificate in Global Health
The Graduate Certificate in Global Health is designed to provide basic knowledge in global health delivery to enable individuals who may not have public health backgrounds to work effectively in agencies and programs providing global health services. This 12-credit post-baccalaureate program emphasizes translational health issues and combines population-based prevention methods with evidence-based, community-supported initiatives. The program prepares students to identify and analyze major health problems in the global society and to develop skills for designing targeted programs, interventions and campaigns to address those challenges. Students collaborate with leading global health experts to design solutions, and prepare for careers implementing global health strategies.
For more info, email Maurice Rocque.
Public Health Without Borders
Public Health Without Borders is a student-run organization supported by the School of Public Health that assesses health disparities affecting disadvantaged communities around the world and creates sustainable interventions to alleviate these disparities. In partnership with the UMD Engineers without Borders chapter, PHWB students have recently travelled to Compone, Peru and to Calaba Town, Sierra Leone to work on projects focused on improving water sanitation and conducting community organizing and health education activities to improve hygiene and prevent disease.
View a video from their 2017 Launch campaign to learn more:
Study Abroad Opportunities
Study abroad in Bolivia this summer! Meet with indigenous community members and experts in ecohealth, protected areas management and agroecology as well as health professionals who provide care in remote areas of the Bolivian Amazon. Activities include learning about medicinal plants and how indigenous communities maintain their health, visiting a sustainable golf course, and learning about the work of one of Bolivia’s most effective conservation organizations. Open to UMD Undergraduate and Graduate, and Non-UMD Undergraduate and Graduate. Sign up by March 1st.
As we head further into the 21st century, India and the U.S. represent our two largest democracies. Based on culture, history, governance and politics, these two countries have adopted similar and unique ways of addressing public health concerns. This course, designed for students who are interested in public health in a global context, will expose you to policy and programmatic frameworks for the delivery of public health services in these two cultures.
Cuba: Law, Public Health and the Cuban Family (summer term)
Join Professor Kerry Tripp on a summer adventure to Cuba for a truly unique opportunity in this comparative family law, public health/medicine and impacts of poverty course. During this blended travel and on-line learning course you will be among the first in a generation to travel to exotic Havana for eight days of dialogue, educational experiences and cultural events as we contrast Cuba's socialized health care and legal systems with our own. FMSC486 4 credits
Sport Commerce and Culture in the Global Marketplace (winter term)
KNES 342 is a three-week immersion into the sport culture of Australia. Visiting Australia’s three largest cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane), students will actively participate within Australian sport culture in many different ways. Students will learn about the development of elite athletes, physical activity in the lives of Australians, and the provision of public recreation through visits to training sites, meetings with public officials, and lectures from prominent Australian academics. Students will experience Australian physical culture through participating in activities such as netball, surfing, and lawn bowling. Students will engage with the Australian sport industry through meeting with sport managers and executives and by attending major sports events.
Past Study Abroad Opportunities
International Public Health in Germany
This course examined key health issues and compares the practice and venues of health promotion and injury control as they occur in Germany with those in the US. You will gain further understanding of the role of history, culture, and geopolitics on the development of health care and health promotion in a developed country; interact with students involved in similar academic activities at a university in another country; and participate in educational, cultural, and social activities of people from another country.