Of TB and Tropical Disease

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CATEGORY: Academics
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RELATED PROGRAMS: Anthropology, Biology, Community and Global Health, International Studies

Macalester will host the World Health Organization's task force meeting, "Measuring Enhanced Outcomes of Preventive Chemotherapy Interventions," on April 13-14. In addition to the 25 experts from around the world, 20 students were selected through an application process to participate. President Brian Rosenberg will present the opening welcome.

Ever since an international public health expert came to Macalester this fall, students have been inspired to pursue global health issues. Among them are Evelyn Balsells ’12, Dominika Seblova ’11, and Kathleen McGee ’12, all of whom are working with former USAID infectious disease chief Professor Christy Hanson to investigate pressing public health issues related to tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases.

Their research, which looks at information from WHO (World Health Organization), USAID (United States Agency for International Development), the World Bank, and others, clearly demonstrates the value of the liberal arts and cross-disciplinary collaboration in addressing the world’s problems.

Each young woman comes from a different field of study: Balsells (Guatemala City) is a biology major, Seblova (Prague) majored in anthropology, and McGee (San Francisco) is an international studies major. But all three chose what is now Mac’s most popular concentration—Community and Global Health—which is where they encountered Hanson, who came to campus last fall for a one-year appointment as Hubert H. Humphrey Professor in International Studies and was recently named dean of the Institute for Global Citizenship.

Hanson led the three students in very different directions. Balsells is studying the cost effectiveness of TB diagnostic tools used in countries such as Lesotho and Ethiopia. Her Macalester science and math classes, she says, allow her to work with various aid providers’ data and to understand research articles and the biological mechanisms behind the diagnostic tools. Next year Balsells will study public health at the University of Edinburgh.

“Professor Hanson made me believe I could do things I never thought I could do. It’s wonderful to work with someone so experienced in the field.”

Seblova, a Davis UWC Scholar, is looking at the relationship between school attendance in Vietnam and neglected tropical diseases. Her research may help secure funding for treating these diseases, which are widespread in the developing world. Says Seblova, “Professor Hanson made me believe I could do things I never thought I could do. It’s wonderful to work with someone so experienced in the field.” Seblova, who graduated last spring, plans to return to Europe for graduate school.

McGee’s research investigates the health finance model used by the aid world, drawing on data from WHO, the World Bank, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. She hopes the aid world will rethink its system based on the demonstrated effectiveness of various kinds of aid. McGee plans to work with grassroots public health organizations after graduation.

Seblova and McGee will present their findings at WHO’s neglected tropical diseases conference, to be held at Macalester April 13–14.

PUBLISHED: 04/06/2012