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Global-Health-Scholars-SymposiumThe First Annual Global Health Scholars Symposium took place November 11, sponsored by the Institute of Global Health & Infectious Diseases (IGHID) and the Gillings School of Global Public Health (GSGPH). The symposium showcased over 30 investigators from UNC and global sites around the world, featuring MD/PhD students, doctoral candidates, postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty. A symposium recording can be accessed here.

“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.”

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

“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. Cohen then introduced Suzanne Maman, PhD, professor in 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 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.”

Ashenafi Assefa Bahita-Symosium
Joe Eron, MD, asking Ashenafi Assefa Bahita, PhD, MSc, a question about his malaria research and efforts to develop new diagnostics.

The symposium began with seven minute presentations from the following.

  • Ashenafi Assefa Bahita, PhD, MSc, IDEEL Postdoctoral Fellow, who worked at the DRC 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.
  • Griffin-Bell-Symposium
    Griffin Bell, MS, Epidemiology PhD Candidate

    Cate Hendren, MD 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 PhD Candidate, in the School of Public Health who has been working with in Malawi discussed epidemiological, geospatial and phylogenetic evidence to inform interventions against HIV transmission during acute and early HIV infection in Lilongwe.
  • Cate-Hendron-Symposium
    Cate Hendren, MD candidate

    Bridget Spelke, MD, Global Women’s Health Fellow, who worked with 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 with in Malawi, presented on a combination of adherence support for HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis During Pregnancy in Malawi.
  • 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, an 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 here.

A poster display featured the following.

  • Mitch Kimber, RN, Global Health MPH Candidate “Oncology Care Challenges in Lilongwe, Malawi: Recommendations from Qualitative Interviews with Clinicians”
  • Mitch-Kimber-symposium
    Mitch Kimber, RN, Global Health MPH Candidate

    Seth Morrison, MD, Pediatric GI Fellow/ MPH Candidate
    “Histo-Blood Group Antigens and Linear Growth in a Nicaraguan Birth Cohort”

  • Sophia Bartels, Health Behavior MSPH-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.


Breakout #1, the “Global Health Collection,” can be accessed here. 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. 


The 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 North Carolina and the world. The School is home to approximately 2,260 dedicated students and ranked the top public school of public health (#2 overall) by U.S. News and World Report (ranked in 2022 for the 2023 edition).