Q: Please tell us about your background and research interests
Direct experience drives my aspiration to study approaches to improve healthcare quality in resource-limited countries, despite the financial and human resource barriers—through capacity building, equitable resource allocation, and advanced technology and medicine.
In 2012, between my first and second years of graduate school, I accepted an opportunity to become a global health intern with Partners in Health (PIH), in rural Malawi. In this role, I worked closely with their cross-site monitoring and evaluation team, and PIH Malawi’s local division building capacity in geographic information systems (GIS) and medical informatics. Our work included studying the impact of decentralizing human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) services on patient antiretroviral therapy (ART) adherence and care retention—from a single district hospital to several regional health centers. The results of this work were published in a PLoS One article, indicating the benefits of the new, decentralized model. It was invigorating to see how my research efforts could enable effective evaluation of policy decisions and inform future care delivery.
After completing my internship, I continued to support PIH sites remotely from Boston, through numerous monitoring, evaluation, and research activities. In this capacity I worked with PIH’s Rwanda team to co-author two additional papers: one in AIDS and Behavior on the role of community health workers in supporting access to ART in rural Rwanda, and another in the International Journal of Health Geographics on the implementation of a low-cost approach to expanding use of geographic information systems for public health. Through this experience, I became passionate about building research capacity among local colleagues in resource-limited settings.
After three years working from PIH’s Boston office, I assumed a new role with PIH in Lesotho, leading and managing a department of nearly 40 people, focused on monitoring and evaluation, medical informatics, and quality improvement. Shortly after assuming this position, my team received a large operational research grant to assess the impact of a national health system reform pilot conducted in four districts from 2013 until 2017. My team completed our evaluation report for Lesotho’s Ministry of Health and PIH and is currently in the process of publishing the results in a peer-reviewed journal. The Ministry has also submitted the reform model to the National Assembly of Lesotho, recommending the reform be scaled up across the country. Through this experience, I learned that local solutions are especially important, and implementation science is critical for designing practical and relevant solutions to improve health care delivery.
Q: Why did you decide to attend the UW for graduate school, and what are you enjoying most about graduate school?
Following these experiences, I realized that I needed a PhD in Implementation Science to conduct and publish more rigorous studies on health system strengthening in resource- limited countries. Specifically, I needed to learn conceptual and methodological frameworks to examine, critique, modify, and develop effective models of health service delivery. While my prior work has yielded significant insights into the logistical and management challenges that arise when implementing large-scale evaluations, I am seeking further training to bridge these experiences with the academic aptitude required to advance the global health agenda encapsulated in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).The University of Washington has an extraordinary global health faculty, one of the few universities offering implementation science PhD programs. This will be invaluable to me in my efforts towards building ties with the ministries’ health leadership teams. My hope is to effectively support the public health sector in LMICs to chart their way towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, with an emphasis on efficient and functional health information systems.
The University of Washington is the perfect place to acquire the skills needed to embark on this journey. I started my PhD program in September 2020 attending classes remotely from Boston, Massachusetts. Due to proper COVID-19 prevention measures taken by the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington, I had the opportunity to continue my education without any interruption. Although the human interaction aspect of the lockdown was difficult, my advisor and our Implementation Science program manager were easily accessible and extremely helpful in adjusting to this unique and challenging time. I am grateful for all the resources provided for students, especially resources/attention dedicated to address diversity, equity, and inclusion.