Q&A with Lizzy Knippler, FHI 360-UNC Fellow
Morghen Philippi, MPH global health concentration student and graduate research assistant for Research, Innovation and Global Solutions, interviewed Lizzy Knippler about her work as an FHI 360-UNC Fellow, her experiences at Gillings, and her favorite Halloween costumes.
Will you tell us about your work as a fellow at FHI 360?
As a fellow, I’m working in the Product Development & Introduction department at FHI 360, which focuses on contraceptive innovation. I get to work with multiple teams across a few different projects, which is an exciting opportunity to see various scopes of work. I’ve been involved in several activities to add new data collection questionnaires and interviews to existing studies to collect information on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting women’s access to and decisions regarding use of contraceptives in several countries, as well as other data analysis and visualization. I was also able to join FHI 360’s newly formed Decolonization and Global Health Equity Steering Committee, which has been a great opportunity to be a part of thoughtful discussions about these topics and how to facilitate and coordinate efforts across FHI 360.
How has your fellowship at FHI 360 impacted your future plans?
I think I still have more questions than answers about what I want to do in the future, but having this fellowship is helping me to think through those questions more critically – thinking about the type of work I want to do, the setting I want to be in, and the people I want to surround myself with. I previously worked for three years doing research in an academic setting, so I was really looking forward to seeing what research might look like in a large nonprofit setting instead. There are a lot of really great things about FHI 360’s approach and values that I enjoy being a part of, as well as wonderful colleagues to whom I can talk about their career paths, and this fellowship really presents the opportunity to get to know the organization better and the breadth of work being done not just in research, but in research utilization and programs.
What has been one of your most impactful experiences at Gillings?
I really loved getting to take Dr. Aunchalee Palmquist’s Cultural Humility class in the Spring, even if we had to switch to virtual halfway through. It was nice to have an academic space to process through things I had been grappling with regarding my positionality and the systems and institutions within global health. I think it was particularly impactful because it not only raised these conversations in the classroom, but helped to enrich discussions I was having with my classmates outside of class as well.
What has your global health path looked like?
I did my undergrad at Duke, where they introduced a global health major while I was there. So I was lucky to be exposed to global health through academic and experiential learning during my undergraduate career. After graduating, I worked at the Duke Global Health Institute supporting research programs on HIV care engagement, women’s health, and mental health in Tanzania and South Africa. I had wonderful mentors and was a part of some really great partnerships, and I was even able to spend six months at our study site in Tanzania working with our team to launch a new study developing an HIV stigma intervention; it was incredible to finally meet my Tanzanian colleagues in person and work closely during such an exciting time of project launch. That basically took me up to grad school, and now while I’m not entirely sure my next steps, I know my previous work experience as well as current work at FHI 360 and time at Gillings will help inform my way forward.
Will you tell us about your favorite Halloween costume?
Halloween was one of my favorite holidays growing up, and I had some pretty fun costumes growing up. In classic 90s fashion, my mom, sister, and I went in homemade Beanie Baby cat costumes one year. Another favorite was the year my best friend and I shared a giant shirt and went as a two-headed witch. Most recently, I made a wacky inflatable tube man costume (picture those things outside car dealerships) that I’m quite proud of. Keep an eye out for it this year if you live near Carrboro…