Q&A with Mexan Mapouka, MPH Student
We interviewed Dr. Mapouka about his previous work before coming to Gillings, why he chose Gillings, and what he is doing as a Humanitarian Health Initiative intern.
What was your background before enrolling in the MPH program?
I am a medical doctor (primary care physician) originally from the Central African Republic (C.A.R). Before enrolling at Gillings, I provided healthcare to displaced population by working with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and International Committee of the Red Cross back home in C.A.R. Then I joined the Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta and worked with my colleagues on a Population-based HIV impact assessment (PHIA) project funded by PEPFAR. My last job was on COVID-19 vaccines clinical trial research for Pfizer, Novavax and Jansse in Atlanta Georgia. I am also a French native speaker.
Why did you choose to attend Gillings?
I chose to join the Gillings School of Global Public Health because of its excellence and leadership in academic training, as well as for opportunities both in humanitarian and research fields.
How did you become interested in humanitarian health?
I worked in humanitarian and conflict zones for three years with two international NGOs that provided both physical and mental healthcare to a refugee and displaced population. Living and working in those places allowed me to gain experience and better understand the daily challenges refugee populations face and how I can contribute to their well-being. The challenges I witnessed were mental health issues and barriers to access good education and economic opportunity. Therefore, I became interested to further my work in the field.
Will you tell us more about your work with the Gillings Humanitarian Health Initiative?
I work with Professor Martha Carlough from UNC and Jennifer Morillo, State Refugee Health Coordinator for NC DHHS on qualitative research of the Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy and refusal among resettled refugees in North Carolina. The goal of the research is deepen understanding of vaccine hesitancy and refusal issues more broadly for refugees. Findings may help to provide guidance and recommendation to the Refugee Health and Refugee Assistance Programs working in tandem with community organizations supporting refugees to expand and promote vaccine education and services for local refugee populations.
When you are not working and studying, how do you like to spend your time?
Play soccer, watch movies, hangout with friends, sleep, and travel!