November 23, 2022

The First Annual Global Health Scholars Symposium took place on Nov. 11, sponsored by the Institute of Global Health & Infectious Diseases (IGHID) and the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

The symposium showcased over 30 investigators from UNC and global sites around the world, including doctoral students, doctoral candidates, postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty.

Dr. Myron Cohen

Dr. Myron Cohen

“Welcome to this inaugural, momentous event, and a chance to see what some of our trainees are doing,” said Myron S. Cohen, MD, IGHID Director in his opening address. “This is an event that I believe will blossom and grow into a giant event, which is what usually happens at UNC — just like an acorn, and then there’s a giant tree.”

“The Institute was established by UNC’s Chancellor Emeritus James Moeser, to create a pan-campus organization that would embrace all the health science schools and the campus, bringing together people interested in global health. We started out as a very small idea and are now the second-largest unit on campus in terms of research revenue. We are a partner for everyone, but our anchor partnership is with public health and medicine.”

Dr. Suzanne Maman

Dr. Suzanne Maman

Cohen then introduced Suzanne Maman, PhD, professor in the Department of Health Behavior and associate dean for global health.

“At Gillings, our most important partner in terms of global work is the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, where there are many opportunities for our trainees at international sites. Just in the last year, we had 29 doctoral students, 17 Master of Public Health (MPH) students and 10 undergraduate students working at global sites. And we are so fortunate to be able to feature some of their work today.”

The symposium began with seven-minute presentations from:

  • Cate Hendren, doctoral candidate

    Cate Hendren, doctoral candidate

    Ashenafi Assefa Bahita, PhD, MSc, postdoctoral fellow at the Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Ecology Lab, who worked at the Democratic Republic of the Congo site, presented on the detection of malaria using a new rapid isothermal amplification lateral flow assay and development of novel diagnostics for African non-falciparum malaria.

  • Cate Hendren, doctoral candidate who has been working with the Uganda site, presented on the distance and travel time to clinics that are associated with HIV viral suppression at a peripheral health center in rural western Uganda.
  • Griffin Bell, MS, epidemiology doctoral candidate at the Gillings School who has been working in Malawi, discussed epidemiological, geospatial and phylogenetic evidence to inform interventions against HIV transmission during acute and early HIV infection in Lilongwe.
  • Bridget Spelke, MD, global women’s health fellow who worked in Zambia, presented on interpersonal therapy versus antidepressant medication for treatment of postpartum depression and anxiety among women with HIV in Zambia.
  • Friday Saidi, MBBS, MMed, M-HIRST fellow who works in Malawi, presented on a combination of adherence support for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis during pregnancy in Malawi.
  • Griffin Bell, epidemiology doctoral candidate

    Griffin Bell, epidemiology doctoral candidate

    Gifty Marley, PhD, a UNC Project-China postdoctoral fellow working in China, presented on a pay-it-forward study to enhance hepatitis B and C test uptake.

  • Rebecca Rubinstein, MPH, a dual doctoral (MD/PhD) candidate working in Nicaragua, presented her work on human milk oligosaccharides and cumulative enteric infections in Nicaraguan children.
    A recording of the main presentations can be accessed online.

A poster display featured:

  • Mitch Kimber, global health MPH candidate

    Mitch Kimber, global health MPH candidate

    Mitch Kimber, RN, global health MPH candidate – “Oncology Care Challenges in Lilongwe, Malawi: Recommendations from Qualitative Interviews with Clinicians”

  • Seth Morrison, MD, pediatric GI fellow/MPH candidate –
    “Histo-Blood Group Antigens and Linear Growth in a Nicaraguan Birth Cohort”
  • Sophia Bartels, health behavior Master of Science in Public Health-to-PhD candidate –
    “Developing Partnership-Based Global Training Programs with Impact”
  • Sydney Puerto-Meredith, UNC Project-Malawi research intern –
    “A Systematic Review of Prevalence and Risk Factors of Transfusion Transmissible Infections among Blood Donors and Blood Safety Interventions in the SADC region”

Attendees then chose one of four breakout rooms for lightning talks.

Sylvia Becker-Dreps, MD, MPH, and Mike Cohen, MD, moderated the Global Health Collection breakout.

Sylvia Becker-Dreps, MD, MPH, and Mike Cohen, MD, moderated the Global Health Collection breakout.

Breakout No. 1, the “Global Health Collection,” can be accessed online. Other recorded breakout sessions will be added here.

The Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases would like to thank everyone who made the First Annual Global Health Scholar Symposium a tremendous success.


The Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases was established in 2007 to foster innovation in global research and education, aligned with UNC’s mission to become a leading global university. Since then, research capacity building has become intrinsic to the work we do, growing intertwined practice-academic partnerships like Project Malawi, Project China, Project Nicaragua and much more, through a pan-university framework for collaboration and access to research funding. Today IGHID is the research engine that drives UNC’s global health work, nurturing emerging investigators and collaborators who work together on four continents in a reciprocal exchange of education and practice. 

About the Gillings School

The UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health works to improve public health, promote individual well-being and eliminate health inequities in North Carolina and around the world, working in basic science laboratories; clinical and public health settings; communities, including worksites; and community-based and other non-governmental organizations. Faculty, staff and students are focused on bridging the gap between academic research and practical public health that can make a healthier world. The School’s curriculum balances classroom education with real-world experience, preparing students to tackle the toughest public health challenges facing N.C. and the world. The School is home to approximately 2,260 dedicated students and is ranked the top public school of public health (#2 overall) by U.S. News and World Report (ranked in 2022 for the 2023 edition).

A symposium recording can be accessed online.

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