Brooke Farrenkopf spent two months this summer at the forefront of Ghana's battle with mosquito-borne diseases, helping to distribute insecticide-treated nets to prevent the spread of malaria.
The graduate student, who celebrated her 24th birthday shortly after returning to the U.S., is one of the 52 Johns Hopkins students to have been awarded a Global Health Established Field Placement, a $3,500 grant to study abroad provided by the Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health. While in Ghana, she helped ensure the success of VectorWorks, a project funded by the President's Malaria Initiative and led by Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs that is charged with assisting the Ghanaian government with providing mosquito nets to the entire population.
Farrenkopf says the experience demonstrated to her how committed health workers in Ghana were to the needs of their patients.
"I heard stories of nurses [calling] each member in the community to remind them of the campaign; working after hours to cater to community members who worked during the day and unable to receive their mosquito nets; and creating innovative ways to improve the campaign delivery, including teaming up with radio stations or introducing a strategic system for tracking nets," she says.
The Global Health Established Field Placements applies student knowledge and classroom training to research projects and health interventions around the world. The duration of the placements vary from six weeks to six months, and destinations include low- and middle-income countries such as Angola, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, China, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Nepal, Peru, Thailand, and Uganda, among others.
Participating students come from the Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the Whiting School of Engineering, and the School of Nursing. Eight undergraduate students and 46 graduate-level students are participating this year.
"The goal of the GHEFP is to provide students with the opportunity to gain and apply global health knowledge and skills in a low-resource setting and develop mentorship relationships with the Hopkins-affiliated primary investigators and local collaborators," says Emily Combs, the program coordinator for the Center for Global Health. "The field placements enable students from many disciplines to develop a culturally competent understanding of, and dedication to, global health."
Farrenkopf says she has developed a better understanding of unconventional team dynamics—she says each program meeting began and ended with affirmations that the team is a family—and an appreciation for how creative approaches for issuing and tracking mosquito nets can help make public health initiatives successful.
The Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health is a collaboration between all of the Johns Hopkins University schools. It harnesses the expertise of the university's dedicated health and medical professionals to address a myriad of global health challenges: HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, malnutrition, hepatitis and other threats to health, especially in developing countries. The Center pulls together Hopkins' extensive knowledge base to develop sustainable solutions that transcend the borders—between disciplines, languages, countries, governments, funding streams, drug availability, education, health care, and more—that prevent good health throughout the world.