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A Promise for a Better Future

March 22, 2019

What Do You Get When You Teach Students to Ask New and Important Questions?

Women’s Health Research at Yale’s Undergraduate Fellowship offers our students the opportunity to work alongside and learn from Yale faculty members who study the influence of sex and gender in biomedical research and translate findings into medical practice.

Read on to meet our current class of fellows and learn what they are doing to advance the health of women.

Nafeesa Abuwala

Year: Senior
Residential College: Berkeley
Major: Medical Anthropology and Chronic Disease Epidemiology
WHRY Mentors: Dr. Megan Smith, Associate Professor of Psychiatry in the Yale Child Study Center and Yale School of Public Health and Founder and Director of the Mental health Outreach for MotherS (MOMS) Partnership, and Dr. Andrea Diaz Stransky, a clinical fellow in the Child Study Center

Fellowship: Understanding the value of community-based interventions on childhood mental health in the New Haven area’s Hispanic community. Abuwala is helping to implement a culturally sensitive MOMS program for immigrant mothers and their children to overcome barriers to care.

Interests: Abuwala has tutored and mentored in New Haven through Students for Autism Awareness at Yale and helped to establish medical clinics in rural Peru. Abuwala also volunteers at HAVEN Free Clinic, providing language interpretation for doctor-patient consultations.

Cecilia Crews

Year: Senior
Residential College: Ezra Stiles
Major: Political Science and Health Policy
WHRY Mentor: Dr. Njeri Thande, Assistant Professor of Medicine (Cardiology)

Fellowship: Assessing the integration of sex and gender-based findings into the traditional medical school curriculum. Crews is working on an academic paper for a scientific journal that links the importance of studying women to policies for improving care.

Interests: Crews is a certified EMT who completed an internship with Doctors Without Borders and delivered health care in Haiti and Rwanda. At school, she has served as an Advocacy Coordinator for Reproductive Justice Action League at Yale (RALY), an undergraduate group for which she led a drive to gather menstrual products for the New Haven homeless community.

Second Year in our Fellowship: Kaveri Curlin

Year: Senior
Residential College: Pauli Murray
Major: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
WHRY Mentors: Njeri Thande and Dr. Carolyn M. Mazure

Fellowship: Last year, Curlin analyzed surveys of medical students assessing whether or how sex and gender was covered in their classes. Her work provided evidence to support conversations with course directors, who have since agreed to address the issue. In addition, Curlin presented this work at the 2018 Sex and Gender Health Education Summit in Utah, and the conference’s organizers selected it as one of the four best submissions. She is a co-author of a recently published article on this work. This year she is completing a paper using a national database to determine how a physician’s number of years practicing medicine might affect the health outcomes of patients with heart disease.

Interests: Curlin has worked as a student researcher in the lab of Dr. Valerie Horsley, Associate Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, investigating the mechanisms of how specialized fat storage cells called adipocytes contribute to the injury and healing process.

She also performs and serves as the student rush coordinator for Coup de Brass, the school’s premier French horn choir, and as a Chaplaincy Fellow, offering spiritual support for her classmates.

"This has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my college career. As I get ready to leave Yale, I will be forever grateful for my ‘scientific home’ at WHRY." — Kaveri Curlin

Jillian Eckroate

Year: Senior
Residential College: Branford
Major: Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
WHRY Mentor: Dr. Kimberly Yonkers, Professor of Psychiatry, of Epidemiology (Chronic Diseases) and of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences; Director, Center for Wellbeing of Women and Mothers

Fellowship: Conducting a qualitative study, including focus group methodologies, to identify the challenges that women face when deciding whether or not to use alcohol during pregnancy and what type of messaging motivates abstaining from alcohol consumption. The ultimate goal of the study is to design motivational text messages that can be regularly sent to women in order to reduce their alcohol use during pregnancy.

Interests: As a sexual health researcher for Student Partnerships for Global Health, Eckroate designed and conducted a mixed-methods public health study to understand how an increase in sexting and social media usage has affected the sexual health and decision-making of young adults in Nicaragua.

Devyn Rigsby

Year: Senior
Residential College: Pierson
Major: Pre-Med and Global Affairs
WHRY Mentor: Dr. Lisa Freed, Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine, Director of Yale New Haven Hospital’s Women’s Heart and Vascular Program

Fellowship: Hands-on shadowing of a highly experienced cardiologist in an active clinical environment while participating in gender-based research on how physicians and clinical providers decide on appropriate care. In one project, Rigsby is contacting cardiology patients to study patient compliance with taking prescribed lipid medications. In a second project, she is assessing whether physicians at various points in their training and careers exhibit gender bias when treating individuals who present with chest pain.

Interests: Rigsby serves as the Chief of Staff for the Yale College Council, and in her junior year, she worked on the research team of Dr. Kevin Schuster, Associate Professor of Surgery, contributing to studies on opioid addiction and ventricular assist device outcomes.

Suyeon Hong

Year: Junior
Residential College: Pauli Murray
Major: Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
WHRY Mentors: Dr. Carolyn Mazure

Fellowship: Working with Dr. Mazure and WHRY’s communications staff to build on the student-run blog. Titled “Why Didn’t I Know This?” the blog features Hong’s personal and informative take on the history and current state of women’s health research while advancing the center’s messaging goals through multimedia tools.

Interests: Hong has assisted with endometriosis research in the lab of Dr. Hugh Taylor, Chair of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, and helped develop a curriculum to teach English as a Second Language in a New Haven elementary school. She has served as a board member of Yale Queer + Asian, Secretary of the LGBTQ Student Cooperative, and Policy Co-Chair of Yale Medical Professions Outreach.

“WHRY is teaching me how to communicate about my experiences in research and health care. I’m excited to continue developing these skills as I advance in my career as a pre-med student.” — Suyeon Hong

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For questions, please contact Rick Harrison, Communications Officer at or 203-764-6610.

Submitted by Carissa R Violante on March 22, 2019