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Students report on summer research projects

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2012 - Winter


Downs Fellows traveled to 11 countries to conduct research projects on topics ranging from diabetes management to psychosocial support for HIV-positive drug users.

Seventeen Yale students participated last summer in what one faculty member called a “life-changing” and “amazing” opportunity—the chance to spend a summer in the developing world doing research that can affect people’s lives. The students—from medicine, public health, nursing, and the Physician Associate programs—studied among other things, leishmaniasis in Colombia; risky sexual and drug-related behaviors of methadone patients in Tanzania; inmate health in Haitian prisons; diabetic patients in southern India; and risk factors for leptospirosis in Brazil.

The students presented their findings in October at the annual Downs International Student Travel Fellowship Fall Symposium. Posters were on display in the lobby outside before and after oral presentations in Winslow Auditorium. Richard Belitsky, M.D., deputy dean for education, the Harold W. Jockers Associate Professor of Medical Education, and associate professor of psychiatry, joined Dean Paul Cleary, Ph.D., and Kaveh Khoshnood, M.P.H. ’89, Ph.D. ’95, director of the Downs program, in offering welcoming remarks. Belitsky noted the value of the Downs Fellowship and other global health activities, which provide students with opportunities to gain clinical and research experience as well as improve their language skills. Some sites that previously offered training only in specific specialties, he said, now provide broader clinical experiences. “We are very proud of all these things,” he said. “These are better opportunities than we’ve been able to offer our students before.”

Three students gave oral presentations of their work. Benjamin Olmedo, a PA student, described his research into management of postpartum hemorrhage, the leading cause of maternal mortality in Peru. Although Peruvian health officials have reduced this rate through national protocols and training initiatives, Olmedo said, their efforts have yet to make an impact on such rural regions as Cuzco, where he did his research. “They’re doing something for the country as a whole, but it’s not reaching everybody,” Olmedo said.

Simone Asare, a public health student, explored the relationship between nutritional status and the prevalence of malaria and anemia in the Kassena-Nankana district of northeastern Ghana. Anemia and malnutrition, she found, were common and linked to asymptomatic malaria.

Kaysia Ludford, a medical student, studied the effects of alcohol consumption on high-risk behavior among men who have sex with men in Lima, Peru. “Alcohol use disorders are universally associated with all the risk criteria—unprotected sex, multiple partners, STDs, and sex work in the past six months,” she said.
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