August 9, 2019

Dr. Kavita Singh Ongechi

Dr. Kavita Singh Ongechi

Kavita Singh Ongechi, PhD, associate professor of maternal and child health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, has been awarded the University’s Philip and Ruth Hettleman Prize for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement by Young Faculty.

She will be recognized at the Sept. 13 meeting of the UNC-Chapel Hill Faculty Council for her innovative research and contributions to the improvement of the health and well-being of mothers and children globally. The award is one of the University’s most prestigious acknowledgments of faculty excellence.

Singh Ongechi came to Carolina in 2003 as a research associate with the the MEASURE Evaluation Project at the  Carolina Population Center, where she is now a faculty fellow. In 2005, she joined the Gillings School as an assistant professor, and she was named associate professor in 2016. Much of her research is focused on evaluating interventions, from pilot to scale-up phases, that are designed to improved maternal and child health outcomes. Her evaluations take a mixed methods approach and are designed to inform programs and policies in an ongoing manner.

Singh Ongechi also has a keen interest in working with low- and middle-income countries to improve postnatal care interventions for both mothers and newborns, and she works to enable countries to obtain better data on health outcomes for these populations. The period from labor to the first week postpartum is a critical time for both mothers and newborns, and effective interventions are needed to ensure optimal health.

Singh Ongechi currently the lead primary investigator for the external evaluation of a large quality improvement project in Ethiopia, which is focused on improving maternal and newborn health. The evaluation includes impact and cost-effectiveness analyses as well as qualitative assessments. Through her work with MEASURE Evaluation and the Data for Impact projects, she advises low- and middle-income countries on methodologies to improve their documentation of maternal mortality and newborn health interventions. Singh Ongechi has on worked on primary health care programs for displaced populations in Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan, has supported HIV prevention programs for adolescent girls in Zimbabwe. She  has also worked in Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Zambia, and also teaches a course on global maternal and child health.

“Dr. Singh Ongechi’s innovative work consistently has contributed to the improvement of the health of vulnerable populations who are, at times, invisible,” said Carolyn Halpern, PhD, chair of the maternal and child health department. “I am so pleased that she has been recognized for exceptional scholarship that is making a difference in the lives of women and children.”

Singh Ongechi, who was named a Carolina Women’s Center Faculty Scholar from 2016 to 2017, continues a long tradition of Hettleman Prize winners at the Gillings School. Stephanie Wheeler, PhD, associate professor of health policy and management, earned the award in 2017.  Wizdom Powell, PhD, former faculty member and now adjunct associate professor of health policy and management, and Jason Surratt, PhD, associate professor of environmental sciences and engineering, won in 2015. In 2014, Mark Holmes, PhD, associate professor of health policy and management, was an awardee. Several other faculty members won in prior years.

“It is a pleasant surprise and real honor to receive the Hettleman Prize,” said Singh Ongechi. “I’ve had wonderful mentors, collaborators and students while at UNC, all with a common goal of wanting to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable populations.”

The award, which includes a $5,000 stipend, was established in 1986 by the late Phillip Hettleman, a New York investment banker and member of the UNC class of 1921, to recognize the achievements of outstanding junior tenure-track faculty or recently tenured faculty. A stipulation of the award is that the recipients will deliver a lecture during the academic year.

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