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Two public health students receive Fulbright grants, plan research in Africa

Courtesy Breanne Lott
Breanne Lott (left) and Katey Redmond were (right) at Fulbright Orientation in Chicago, July 2019 they have been named Fulbright scholars.

Two students from University of Arizona’s Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health will be traveling to sub-Sahara Africa this year after receiving grants from the Fulbright U.S. Student Research Program to study public health in rural communities.

The Fulbright student exchange program offers 2,000 research and teaching grants for students traveling to over 140 countries every year. The federal program, founded in 1946, is designed to foster international collaborations to study or address common problems and needs.

RELATED: UA ranked a top producer of Fulbright scholars in 2019

Katey Redmond, whose project is already underway in Namibia, graduated from the UA with a master’s of public health in 2018. Redmond is studying tuberculosis in rural Namibian communities to identify new and accessible prevention methods for TB. 

Breanne Lott, a Ph.D. student in UA’s Health Behavior Health Promotion program, leaves for Nigeria this December. Lott plans to study how health officials in southeastern Nigeria are adapting the implementation of HIV services to best serve local communities. 

Both Lott and Redmond have worked in sub-Saharan Africa before. Their past experiences abroad inspired their current work in the Fulbright program.

“When I was a Peace Corps volunteer in South Africa, several young mothers in my community suddenly died of tuberculosis,” Redmond said. “I looked at public databases for interventions my communities could use to protect themselves; however, the only non-medical intervention I could find was to open windows, [which was] not feasible for winter in the mountains.”

When Redmond returned to the U.S. to finish her master’s degree at the UA, she continued to see research gaps in TB prevention for rural communities. Redmond said she wanted to close this gap, so she applied for a Fulbright grant. 

After spending a summer researching cervical cancer in Ethiopia, Lott saw firsthand the barriers, such as transportation, hindering communities from accessing healthcare. 

In contrast to Redmond, Lott will be evaluating the implementation of a current non-medical intervention, called task shifting, aimed at improving HIV services in the community. 

“I will be studying HIV service delivery in Nigeria, specifically task shifting,” Lott said. “Task shifting is where tasks are redistributed in response to a health system. These shifts make sense to implement [the program].” 

Both Lott and Redmond credit resources available to UA students with their successful applications. 

“Without UA, I probably would have not pursued a Fulbright,” Redmond said. 

According to Redmond, without her UA degree and her past experiences, she would not have felt confident enough to conduct her own research abroad. 

During her time at the UA, Redmond joined the Student Aid for Field Epidemiology Response Team, which works with local health departments investigating foodborne illnesses in Arizona. She also worked with the College of Medicine’s Petersen Clinic to review the quality of HIV patient care.

“The UA has lots of opportunities for students to get connected with international communities,” Lott said. “I took advantage of the resources available on campus, such as Fulbright week and the Graduate College’s application preparation, and they were really helpful.”

Lott encouraged other students to take advantage of these same resources and opportunities.

Beyond the research, Redmond said her experiences abroad and her time immersed in different cultures have transformed her worldview.

“It is a humbling experience to do research abroad and an important reminder that while the process looks different in the U.S., the research out of sub-Saharan African universities is invaluable and no less valid,” Redmond said.

Lott has never visited Nigeria before and is excited to be immersed in and learn more about the culture too.

RELATED: UA ranked No. 15 in producing Peace Corps volunteers

Lott and Redmond are not the first Fulbrights from the UA. The UA is actually one of the top producers of Fulbright students and scholars in the country. In 2019, the UA ranked No. 3 in total Fulbright scholars nation-wide.

“This ranking is an outstanding reflection of the incredible talent we have here at the University of Arizona, and I could not be prouder of our Fulbright scholars as they share their expertise and collaborate with institutions across the world,” said UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins in a press release about the ranking. 

After returning from sub-Sahara Africa, Lott plans to finish her Ph.D. at the UA. Redmond said she hopes to publish her research in a free-to-access journal and pursue a Ph.D. or a job at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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