Scholars present at the first annual Global Health Scholars Symposium

November 23, 2022

The first annual Global Health Scholars Symposium was held on November 11 and was sponsored by the Institute of Global Health & Infectious Diseases (IGHID) and the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

The symposium presented over 30 researchers from UNC and global sites around the world, including PhD students, PhD students, postdoctoral researchers and early stage researchers.

dr Myron Cohen

“Welcome to this significant inaugural event and the opportunity to see what some of our trainees are doing,” said Myron S. Cohen, MD, IGHID Director, in his opening address. “This is an event that I believe will blossom and grow into a huge event, which usually happens at UNC – just like an acorn, and then there’s a huge tree.”

“The Institute was founded by UNC Chancellor Emeritus James Moeser to create a cross-campus organization encompassing all health science faculties and the campus, bringing together people interested in global health. We started out as a very small idea and are now the second largest unit on campus in terms of research income. We are a partner to all, but our anchor partnership is public health and medicine.”

dr  Susan Maman

dr Susan Maman

Cohen then introduced Suzanne Maman, PhD, a professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Associate Dean of Global Health.

“Our key partner for global work at Gillings is the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, where there are many opportunities for our trainees in international locations. In the last year alone, we had 29 graduate students, 17 Masters of Public Health (MPH) students and 10 undergraduate students working in global locations. And we are so happy to be able to present some of their work today.”

The symposium began with seven-minute presentations by:

  • Cate Hendren, graduate student

    Cate Hendren, graduate student

    Ashenafi Assefa EastPhD, MSc, Postdoctoral Researcher at the Laboratory of Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Ecology, working at the DRC site, presented the detection of malaria using a new lateral flow assay with rapid isothermal amplification and the development of novel diagnostics for African Non -falciparum -Malaria.

  • Kate HendrenPhD student who has worked with the Uganda site presented the distance and travel time to clinics associated with HIV virus suppression at a peripheral health center in rural western Uganda.
  • Griffin bellMS, a PhD student in Epidemiology at Gillings School who has worked in Malawi, discussed epidemiological, geospatial and phylogenetic evidence to inform interventions against HIV transmission during acute and early HIV infection in Lilongwe.
  • Brigitte SpelkeMD, Global Women’s Health Fellow working in Zambia, presented interpersonal therapy versus antidepressants for the treatment of postpartum depression and anxiety in women living with HIV in Zambia.
  • Friday Saidi, MBBS, MMed, M-HIRST Fellow working in Malawi presented a combination of adherence support for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis during pregnancy in Malawi.
  • Griffin Bell, PhD student in epidemiology

    Griffin Bell, PhD student in epidemiology

    Toxic MarleyPhD, a UNC Project China postdoctoral fellow working in China, presented a pay-it-forward study on improving uptake of hepatitis B and C testing.

  • Rebekah RubinsteinMPH, a dual MD/PhD student working in Nicaragua, presented her work on human milk oligosaccharides and cumulative enteric infections in Nicaraguan children.
    A recording of the keynote speeches is available online.

A poster exhibition showed:

  • Mitch Kimber, Global Health MPH candidate

    Mitch Kimber, Global Health MPH candidate

    Mitch KimberRN, Global Health MPH Candidate – “Oncology Challenges in Lilongwe, Malawi: Recommendations from Qualitative Interviews with Clinicians”

  • Seth MorrisonMD, Pediatric GI Fellow/MPH Candidate –
    “Histo-Blood Group Antigens and Linear Growth in a Nicaraguan Birth Cohort”
  • Sophia BartelsHealth Behavior Master of Science in Public Health-to-PhD Student –
    “Developing Partnership-Based Global Training Programs With Impact”
  • Sydney Puerto MeredithResearch Intern at UNC Project Malawi –
    “A systematic review of the prevalence and risk factors of transfusion-transmitted infections in blood donors and blood safety interventions in the SADC region”

Participants then chose one of four breakout rooms for Lightning Talks.

Sylvia Becker-Dreps, MD, MPH, and Mike Cohen, MD, moderated the Global Health Collection breakout.

Sylvia Becker-Dreps, MD, MPH, and Mike Cohen, MD, moderated the Global Health Collection breakout.

Breakout No. 1, the Global Health Collection, is available online. Other recorded breakout sessions are added here.

The Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases would like to thank everyone who made the First Annual Global Health Scholar Symposium a tremendous success.


The Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases was established in 2007 to foster innovation in global research and education, in line with UNC’s mission to become a leading global university. Since then, research capacity building has become an integral part of our work, building intertwined practice-academic partnerships such as Project Malawi, Project China, Project Nicaragua and more through a multi-university framework for collaboration and access to research funding. Today, IGHID is the research engine driving UNC’s global health work, nurturing emerging researchers and collaborators working together on four continents in a mutual exchange of education and practice.

About the Gillings School

The UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health works to improve public health, promote individual well-being, and close health inequalities in North Carolina and around the world by working in basic research laboratories; clinical and public health attitudes; communities, including construction sites; and community-based and other non-governmental organizations. Faculty, staff and students are focused on bridging the gap between academic research and practical public health that can contribute to a healthier world. The school’s curriculum balances classroom training with real-world experience, preparing students to tackle the toughest public health challenges in NC and the world. The school is home to approximately 2,260 dedicated students and is ranked the top public school for public health (ranked 2nd overall) by US News and World Report (ranked 2022 for the 2023 edition).

A recording of the symposium is available online.

Contact the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at [email protected]

Scholars present at the first annual Global Health Scholars Symposium

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