Campus News

Meet the 2024–2025 Dhablania and Kim Family Global Medicine and Health fellows

June 20, 2024
2024–2025 Dhablania and Kim Family Global Medicine and Health fellows

The Department of Population and Public Health Sciences is honored to share the 2024–2025 Dhablania and Kim Family Global Medicine and Health fellows. Through the generosity of supporters, ten students across various Keck School of Medicine of USC degree programs will be able to enrich their understanding of health challenges in different communities by learning through research and clinical experiences and preparing them to serve humanity’s needs. This fellowship is instrumental in promoting the exchange of knowledge and skills that will impact our students’ careers but also the health and wellness for many throughout the world.


2024-2025 Fellows


Jessica Perez, MD
(Photo courtesy Jessica Perez)

Jessica Perez, MD

PERU | Evaluating the Acceptability of Syphilis Vaccines

My research proposal aims to investigate individual preferences that influence decision-making for a syphilis vaccine utilizing a discrete-choice experiment approach in a population with risk behaviors for syphilis in Lima, Peru to guide future vaccine development and vaccination efforts. Syphilis remains a significant global health challenge, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. The development of an effective vaccine against syphilis could have a profound impact on reducing the burden of this disease worldwide. The project will involve collaboration with experts in clinical epidemiology, microbiology, and public health to ensure a thorough and successful evaluation of the most critical vaccine attributes. This project would not only advance our understanding of how multiple competing factors influence vaccination willingness in this population but also bring us closer to the ultimate goal of eliminating syphilis as a public health threat.

Mentor: Kelika Konda, MHS, PhD


Kristina Miljkovic, PhD in Health Behavior Research
(Photo courtesy Kristina Miljkovic)

Kristina Miljkovic, PhD in Health Behavior Research

SERBIA | A Social Network Analysis Perspective on Tobacco Use in High Schools

This social network analysis perspective will be conducted in Belgrade, Serbia, with the Institute of Public Health of Serbia. The project aims to address how Serbia’s high smoking rates pose significant public health concerns, particularly for adolescents in high school. The project will utilize social network analysis to investigate the relationship between geographical distance among high schools across the country and tobacco usage patterns. Through social network analysis, the project seeks to identify subgroups or clusters of high schools based on socioeconomic status and explore structural equivalence among schools in the network. This project has the potential to generate valuable insights into smoking prevalence among high schoolers and inform the development of targeted interventions to address this pressing public health issue in Serbia.

Mentor: Thomas Valente, PhD


Madeline Sellinger, MS in Global Medicine
(Photo courtesy Madeline Sellinger)

Madeline Sellinger, MS in Global Medicine

UGANDA | Study of Water Use and Drowning Prevention

My primary project will be a photovoice project in two lakeside communities of Uganda, Mayuge and Jinja. This study will assess community knowledge, perspectives, and beliefs related to water use, drowning, and drowning prevention interventions. I will also be assembling public health resources and hope to spotlight the community attitudes and perspectives gathered for World Drowning Prevention Day on July 25. In addition, I plan to assist with the research and policy development work (including the drowning prevention projects described above) being done at the Trauma, Injury, and Disability (Triad) Lab at the Makerere University of Public Health. My fellowship will conclude with serving as a volunteer facilitator for Energy in Action’s annual Splash Safe camp, which trains youth from Kampala in water safety, drowning prevention, first aid, and swim survival.

Mentor: Heather Wipfli, PhD


Avaion Ruth, MPH
(Photo courtesy Avaion Ruth)

Avaion Ruth, MPH

MÉXICO | Exploring Cardiovascular Health and Awareness Among Adolescents

We will utilize a mixed methods study to investigate the relationship between height, body mass index, and blood pressure in adolescents, specifically in Yucatán, México. In addition, the study will explore the perceptions and awareness of cardiovascular disease among obese adolescents. This study has important implications for public health strategies in México, offering insights into cardiovascular disease risk factors and awareness among obese adolescents in the region. Exploring the relationship between physical parameters and cardiovascular health and understanding local perceptions of cardiovascular disease can inform targeted interventions at the clinical and/or governmental level to promote heart health and reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease.

Mentor: Ricky Bluthenthal, PhD


Emily Kumagai, MPH
(Photo courtesy Emily Kumagai)

Emily Kumagai, MPH

JAPAN | Reporting on All Stages of the Cancer Care Continuum

I intend to survey both patients (including their families) and specialists such as oncologists, professors, and other researchers about their experiences and suggestions for improving access and treatment in medically underserved populations. Due to Japan’s advancement in lung cancer treatments and high traffic in medical tourism, my objective is to compile a comprehensive report of all stages of the Cancer Care Continuum in Japan in hopes of implementing key effective factors within the United States (e.g. Los Angeles) and other medically underserved areas. My goal is to create an expert consensus report that can contribute to the development of improved medical practices.

Mentor: Britni R. Belcher, PhD, MPH


Kalpana Gopalkrishnan, MD
(Photo courtesy Kalpana Gopalkrishnan)

Kalpana Gopalkrishnan, MD

INDIA | Implementing a Menstrual Health Curriculum

This project aims to address this disparity in menstrual hygiene and knowledge through the implementation of a menstrual health curriculum at the Assembly of God Church School in Kolkata, India, for girls ranging from 7th through 12th grade. The effort will be a joint project with the Mission of Mercy Hospital in Kolkata. First, the curriculum will be developed in both English and Bangla, the regional language, through collaborative input from students and faculty regarding their current knowledge baseline. The curriculum will be designed in a hybrid format for both in-person and online interaction through a website or app. After development, the curriculum will be implemented at the school across one to two weeks, with an emphasis on student participation and direction. Continuity will be encouraged through ongoing engagement with the website or app, and we will continue to work with the school and hospital to develop a sustainable curriculum for the school.

Mentor: Aninda Das, MD


Katherine Lewis, PhD in Health Behavior Research
(Photo courtesy Katherine Lewis)

Katherine Lewis, PhD in Health Behavior Research

INDIA | Pre-exposure Prophylaxis Implementation to Reduce the Risk of HIV

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a critical tool for reducing HIV risk. Despite approval for use, PrEP is not subsidized for key populations in India, effectively cutting off access for this low-income community. Past research has demonstrated high PrEP acceptability among sex workers in India, but limited research has examined how PrEP could feasibly be implemented. To address this gap, the project will work on PrEP implementation science with hard-to-reach populations in West Bengal, India. This includes stakeholder and community interviews, conjoint analysis, and concept mapping to inform the development and testing of a PrEP delivery randomized controlled trial.

Mentor: Anne E. Fehrenbacher, PhD, MPH


Maylis Basturk MD
(Photo courtesy Maylis Basturk)

Maylis Basturk MD

RWANDA | Pathways to Surgical Care: Evaluating Access Within the Health System

This project aims to critically evaluate and delineate the pathways to surgical care in Rwanda, tracing the patient’s journey from the initial onset of their condition through the health system to the point of receiving definitive surgical management. It will examine the existing barriers to surgical care and identify opportunities to integrate surgical services more effectively within primary health systems. By mapping the pathways and obstacles to surgical care, our research will propose strategies to enhance the accessibility of surgical services, especially in rural settings, potentially enabling the early detection and treatment of conditions to reduce morbidity and mortality. Furthermore, our findings can assist policymakers and practitioners in crafting interventions for more integrated surgical care, promoting equitable access nationwide.

Mentor: Jonathan Cohen, JD


Ashim Ahuja
(Photo courtesy Ashim Ahuja)

Ashim Ahuja, Neurobehavior Fellowship, Movement Disorder Fellowship

CAMBODIA | Providing Essential Neurology Education

Our work will provide essential neurology education to medical students and internal medicine doctors in Cambodia. The project will be focused on two Cambodian institutions that lack year-round neuroscience and neurology teaching for both medical students and practicing clinicians. The project will provide a one-week intensive course in the basics of neurology in both the classroom and at the bedside. It will also provide educational materials and a sample syllabus for physicians and students to incorporate neurology teaching into their normal schedules. The aim is to provide these clinicians with an additional course, separate from the global medicine team. I also intend to procure educational resources such as textbooks and proper neurologic diagnostic tools. This project seeks to address critical healthcare disparities, promote knowledge exchange, and enhance healthcare delivery in vulnerable populations. I want to help empower medical professionals in Cambodia to provide better care for neurological patients, ultimately improving health outcomes and quality of life.

Mentor: Soma Sahai-Srivastava, MD 


Arina Megerdichian, MPH
(Photo courtesy Arina Megerdichian)

Arina Megerdichian, MPH

ARMENIA | Establishing a National Dementia Registry

Our study aims to establish an accessible and accurate centralized evidence base through the National Dementia Registry. This compilation of data will inform Alzheimer’s Care Armenia’s pursuit of future projects, interventions, and recommendations for clinical practice and health policy to address the critical mental health needs of aging populations in Armenia. The establishment of Armenia’s first National Dementia Registry will consolidate data on relevant lifestyle factors, environmental exposures, and comorbidities while presenting insight into the potential influence of behavioral and cultural factors on dementia development. This research will initiate the first steps in uncovering unmet needs for cognitive health as well as guide clinical practice, future public health interventions, and health policy decisions. Furthermore, it will contribute to the development of the country’s health infrastructure and inform similar projects in neighboring post-Soviet lower-middle-income countries.

Mentor: Ans Irfan, MD, EdD, DrPh, ScD, MRPL, MPH


Learn more about the Dhablania and Kim Family Global Medicine and Health Fellowship.