Lein Soltan wearing a blue patterned shirt and standing in front of a treeWhat was your background before enrolling in the MPH program at Gillings?

My background is marine biology. Since graduating from UNC in 2014, I have worked as a sea turtle biologist. Before starting the MPH program and throughout my first year of the program, I was the lab manager of a sea turtle research lab in UNC’s Biology department.

Will you tell us more about your work with the Gillings Humanitarian Health Initiative?

I work with Dr. Aunchalee Palmquist and an interdisciplinary research team based in Iraq to examine the perinatal and postpartum experiences of internally displaced Yazidi women in Iraq. My role is to conduct the qualitative data analysis of interviews that took place in 2018 and 2019 with 30 women across four internally displaced people (IDP) camps in Iraq. This work began as my summer practicum experience and extended into the humanitarian health internship, where I will be continuing data analysis and supporting the research team in developing manuscripts. The ultimate goal of this project is to raise awareness of the human rights abuses Yazidi women incur in IDP camps and to improve access to quality maternity care and mental health services.

How did you become interested in humanitarian health?

My interests in humanitarian health are largely inspired by my own experience as a Palestinian American. My family came to the United States in 1990 as Palestinian refugees fleeing the Gulf War in Kuwait. The more I learned about my family history of repeated displacement and dispossession, the more compelled I became to do something about it. I wanted to find a way to utilize my education and experience in biology and marine science towards the issues I care about in Palestine and across the Middle East. I am interested in the connections between climate change, conflict, and displacement and believe that humanitarian health is the nexus of global health as we continue to see the effects of climate change for generations to come.

How has your internship with the Gillings Humanitarian Health Initiative impacted you?

This internship has opened many doors for me, connecting me with top faculty in the humanitarian field and allowing me delve deep into a particular humanitarian issue. I am gaining qualitative research skills while interacting with an international and interdisciplinary research team. This is something I have been striving towards throughout my time at Gillings and it is really exciting to see this initiative come to fruition. I feel very fortunate to be a part of it!

When you’re not working and studying, how do you like to spend your time?

I like to spend my time outside! I enjoy biking around town, hiking through the woods, and scuba diving any chance I get. I also enjoy CrossFit, playing with dogs, and bird watching.

Global Health Team

135 Dauer Drive
104 Rosenau Hall, CB #7415
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7415
(919) 843-3945