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Anne Havlik and Kenneth Gunasekera Win Global Health Awards

July 24, 2023
by Ashley P. Taylor

On the morning of the 12th annual Global Health Day, March 16, 2023, Sheela Shenoi, MD, MPH, associate director of the Internal Medicine Office of Global Health and associate professor of medicine (infectious diseases) announced the winners of this year’s Global Health awards. Anne Havlik, MPH, won the Asghar Rastegar Global Health Medical Education & Capacity Building Award, and Kenneth Gunasekera, MD, PhD, won the Gerald Friedland Global Health Research Award.

Since its founding in 2011, Global Health Day, sponsored by the Office of Global Health (OGH), has highlighted global health-related scholarship by Yale faculty and trainees. It has also expanded to include several noontime events earlier in the week in addition to a Medical Grand Rounds talk on the day itself. Havlik and Gunasekera won awards for oral research presentations they gave during one such noontime event, held on Tuesday, March 14, during which Yale trainees and recent graduates presented their global health research. Earlier in the semester, OGH encouraged Yale students, trainees, staff, and faculty to submit abstracts about their global health scholarship, both domestic and international. Each abstract was deidentified, reviewed, and scored by pairs of faculty members from Yale School of Medicine (YSM), Yale School of Nursing, and Yale School of Public Health (YSPH), and the top eight student and trainee abstracts were selected for oral presentation on March 14. (Watch the oral presentations here.) Different faculty members judged the oral presentations and selected Havlik and Gunasekera as the winners.

The Rastegar Global Health Medical Education & Capacity Building Award is named after Asghar Rastegar, MD, professor emeritus of medicine, founding director of the Office of Global Health, and former co-director of the Yale/Stanford Global Health Scholars Program. The award is given to a trainee whose scholarly work honors Rastegar’s legacy working with global partners to strengthen medical training and health systems. Havlik won the Rastegar award for her presentation, “Availability of resources for diabetes care in Samoa.” In Samoa, resources for diabetes care vary from health center to health center, Havlik said, making it difficult for physicians to know where to refer patients for different services. Working with Satupaitea Viali, MD, a cardiologist and diabetes clinician in Samoa, and Nicola Hawley, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology (chronic diseases) at YSPH, Havlik developed a diabetes care checklist, determined which health centers offered which diabetes care services, and organized this material into a tool to help clinicians decide where to refer patients for given tests or treatments. Havlik also created a culturally relevant guide to the disease for diabetes patients in Samoa. Havlik is moving to Atlanta, Georgia where she is starting a Birth Defects Surveillance and Research Fellowship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Friedland Global Health Research Award, named for Gerald Friedland, MD, professor emeritus of medicine, YSM, and epidemiology, YSPH, and founding director of the Yale AIDS Program, honors a trainee who has conducted rigorous research that impacts public health or clinical care. This year, Gunasekera won the Friedland award for his presentation “Development of treatment-decision algorithms for children evaluated for pulmonary tuberculosis: an individual participant data meta-analysis.” Worldwide, childhood TB is severely underdiagnosed and contributes to child mortality, yet Gunasekera explained that in many resource-limited parts of the world, it is not possible to give a TB test to every child being evaluated for TB. To improve TB diagnosis, Gunasekara worked with James Seddon, MD, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Imperial College, London, and Stellenbosch University in South Africa, Ted Cohen, DPH, MD, MPH, professor of epidemiology (microbial diseases), YSPH, and other collaborators to perform a meta-analysis of symptoms, chest X-ray results, and TB diagnoses from 4,718 children across 13 studies. Gunasekera used those data to create an algorithm that assigns a point value to each symptom and chest X-ray feature and gives each patient an overall score. If the algorithm gives a patient a score greater than 10, the researchers recommend treating that child for TB. The World Health Organization has included the algorithm in a handbook accompanying its guidelines for managing childhood TB. Gunasekera matched into residency at NewYork-Presbyterian-Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital affiliated with Columbia University and hopes to continue research in the future.

The Department of Internal Medicine at Yale is among the nation's premier departments, bringing together an elite cadre of clinicians, investigators, educators, and staff in one of the world's top medical schools. To learn more, visit Internal Medicine.

Submitted by Julie Parry on July 24, 2023