Q&A with Hanna Huffstetler, MPH
We at Research, Innovation and Global Solutions, interviewed Hanna Huffstetler about her work at the intersection of health and human rights, her completed MPH in Global Health, her current PhD program, and why she chose Gillings.
What was your background before enrolling in the MPH program?
Prior to coming to Gillings, my educational and professional experiences were largely research-focused. In college, I studied medical anthropology and interdisciplinary approaches to issues in global health. I also became engaged in health and human rights research, focusing on human rights monitoring and systems of accountability. After graduating, I worked at both the Duke Margolis Center for Health Policy and the Center for Policy Impact in Global Health, where I supported health policy research in both domestic and international settings.
What was the most salient component of your MPH in Global Health for you?
As someone with a research background, I came to the MPH program eager to learn about all dimensions of global health praxis – from stakeholder engagement to program monitoring and evaluation. I appreciated how the Global Health MPH program not only gave me a foundational understanding of these processes, but further challenged me to critically think about where and how I want my work to contribute to the broader global health picture. I had many “light bulb” moments along the way that shaped—and continue to shape—how I see both myself and my work.
Can you tell us more about your current PhD program?
Yes! I am thrilled to say I just started the PhD program in the Department of Health Behavior here at Gillings. While I am still in the didactic phase of my training, I plan to apply what I am currently learning to mixed methods research that empirically examines the impacts of legal and policy interventions on health and human rights.
Will you tell us more about your work at the intersection of health and human rights?
Over the past 6 years I have worked with Dr. Benjamin Mason Meier of UNC’s Department of Public Policy to support research focused on human rights in global health governance. I currently co-lead a project that systematically monitors media coverage of potential human rights violations in national public health responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a part of this work, we recently launched the UNC COVID-19 Health and Human Rights Monitor – a free online tool that offers an interactive and searchable repository of our data, which we hope will provide a foundation for future research and advocacy. Through this project and others, I work with an incredible team of UNC students and alumni whose work inspires me every day.
What does “global health” mean to you?
At its core I see global health as a collaborative effort between people—cutting across disciplinary and geographic boundaries—to achieve shared health goals.
What drew you to the Gillings School of Global Public Health?
What drew me to Gillings was the people. My experiences at the school have been profoundly enriched by the dozens of individuals I have had the privilege of interacting with on a daily basis. From the staff and faculty to fellow students, each have a diverse array of experiences, perspectives, and expertise that make for a very dynamic and collaborative learning environment.
What is your dream job?
I think my idea of a “dream job” changes depending on the day, but in the future I would love a career that allows me to simultaneously work at the intersection of research, education, and practice – where I not only support evidence generation through research, but further work with communities and institutions to translate that evidence into policy change. Those that know me well also know that I have a longstanding passion for food and culinary arts; in another life, I think I would pursue my childhood dream of becoming a professional chef.
If you could invite one individual to dinner—living, dead, fictional, or real—who would they be and why?
Oh my gosh… there are SO many people that would amazing. One person that comes to mind is Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng. She is a trailblazing physician and fierce sexual and reproductive rights advocate who was recently appointed as the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health in 2020. I find everything she does to be inspiring and I would be thrilled to have an opportunity to speak with her about her work.