Q&A with Doreen Alumaya, MPH Student in Global Health
Morghen Philippi, graduate research assistant for Research, Innovation and Global Solutions, interviewed Doreen Alumaya about her work with the Gillings Humanitarian Health Initiative, why she chose Gillings, and her hopes for the field of global health.
What was your background before enrolling in the MPH program at Gillings?
Before enrolling in the MPH program at Gillings, I worked as a research scholar at Otterbein University in Ohio. However, my background is in Nutrition and Dietetics. Prior to becoming a research scholar, I worked as a nutritionist at Nyumanzi Refugee camp in Uganda for over 15 months. My experiences working at the refugee camp made me realize the rewards of not just handing out food into people’s hands but the development of sustainable programs. I wanted to understand what was happening in the community that made these kids malnourished, and that pointed to me the doors of Public Health. My interests center around nutrition and maternal child health, health equity and humanitarian health.
You have spent the last school year volunteering with the Gillings Humanitarian Health Initiative. Will you tell how you first became interested in working in Humanitarian Health?
I think it goes back to when I was a young child. I remember stories of my aunt feeding me on milk she got from the refugee camp. Somehow, I wanted to give back to people who fed me. And so, I decide to work directly in the humanitarian field after the South Sudan war crisis. During this work, I witnessed the hard situations in which refugees live. And yet, as of 2021, the numbers of displaced people in need of help are in record numbers the modern world has ever seen. The need is great and I feel called to be there just like those who fed me the milk while I was young.
Even after coming to Gillings, I wanted to continue doing some kind of humanitarian work. That’s when I looked in to the Gillings Humanitarian Health Initiative, where I am currently volunteering with Professor Sheila Leatherman on the project in Sierra Leone, “Improving Service delivery for Mothers and Children in Sierra Leone.”
What changes do you hope to see in the field of global health?
I hope for a global health field where power is shared between countries and donors who fund the work. A global health world where health is a human right for all and not a question to be debated. Most of all, a global health that is equitable, and not centered around the interests and needs of the few elite wealthy people.
Why did you choose to get your MPH in Global Health at Gillings?
As a first-generation student, you don’t get all the exposures you might need when thinking about pursuing graduate school. However, I first learned about Gillings in 2019 when I was on a panelist on the International Day of the Girls. A Gillings doctoral student among the audience walked to me and told me to checkout Gillings for my MPH. Right when I contacted the faculty members Dr. Suzanne Maman and others, it just felt right. Gillings is so welcoming and makes you feel valued, and I think that’s a place for all graduate students to nurture their career. Their slogan “Global is Local, Local is Global” also influenced my decision. The faculties involved with research and implementation science globally couldn’t have made the decision any easier. Amidst a global pandemic, I know I made the best decisions, and Gillings proves that daily.
What do you hope to do after you graduate with your MPH?
I would like to work in implementation science fields that allow me to incorporate nutrition and maternal health. Over the last years, I have become passionate on discussions around de-colonizing global health, and I hope to continue that even more in my work.
What is something few people know about you?
I am a first-generation student (college and graduate school), I am also the first child of 11 siblings. 😊Crazy I know, but I find so much joy in knowing that they look up to me. Its an overwhelming pressure but, at the same time, the best feeling.