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Graduates of the Centre for International Health

PhD graduates

Gagan GurungGagan Gurung

Gagan Gurung was a recipient of a University of Otago Doctoral Scholarship. He has more than ten years' working experience in Public Health, particularly in community engagement and local health governance. After completing his Bachelor's degree, he started his professional career at the Association of Medical Doctors in Asia (AMDA)-Nepal. He then joined Save the Children after graduating with his Master's degree, working there for several years in different capacities. His last assignment with Save the Children was as Team Leader to lead a local health system governance strengthening programme at national level – a USAID-funded bilateral project.

Gagan has a Bachelor's degree in public health (BPH) and a Master's in Public Health (MPH) from Institute of Medicine, Teaching Hospital, Tribhuvan University, Nepal. In addition, he has a Master of Arts in Rural Development (MARD).

Gagan's thesis title: Citizen engagement in health services development and governance: An organisational and service level DHB study.

Hasibul Haque

Hasibul HaqueHasibul Haque is a recipient of a University of Otago Doctoral scholarship.

Hasibul comes from a long professional background in international health and development. As program management adviser to Ministry of Health of Timor-Leste (East Timor), Hasibul supported country health systems strengthening and management of national HIV / AIDS, TB, and malaria programs of Timor-Leste with a total Global Fund grants portfolio of around US$40 million.

Apart from his international health policy and national disease program management advisory role, Hasibul's professional career included working as HIV / AIDS behaviour change communication specialist in Bangladesh and Timor-Leste; consulting for UNICEF, GIZ, UNFPA, and national and international NGOs; working as Unit Chief of integrated program, technical, and communication teams of Family Health International in Bangladesh; and working as Communication Officer for the Oxfam GB South Asia Regional Management Centre.

Hasibul obtained his first degree (BA(Hons)) and Master's in English Language and Literature from Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh.

Along with his professional work, first as a university faculty member and then in the development sector, Hasibul continued diversifying his academic training and further education with a post-experience level certificate in English language testing (University of Warwick, UK), a postgraduate certificate in adult and continuing education (University of Victoria, Canada), a certificate in integrated marketing communication (New York University, USA), and a Master's in population sciences (University of Dhaka, Bangladesh).

Hasibul is a former British ODA scholar, UNFPA scholar, member of the WHO Global Technical Network, and an alumnus of the prestigious Salzburg Seminar (which brings together potential future leaders of the world).

Hasibul's thesis: Aid effectiveness in East Timor. Enrolled for PhD 2012.

Supervisors: Robin Gauld, Philip Hill

Dr Susan Jack

Dr Susan Jack

Dr Susan Jack leads Global Health Link Otago, the service arm of the Centre for International Health. Susan is a medical graduate of the University of Otago with a Postgraduate Diploma in Paediatrics (University of Auckland), Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine (James Cook University, Australia), and a PhD in Epidemiology (University of Otago).

From 1994–2010 Susan lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she was part of setting up a non-government organisation undertaking community health and development work among urban poor communities. Susan also did consultancy work for the World Health Organization, USAID, and Tearfund UK in Cambodia and other countries in Asia. She then worked for four years at the WHO Cambodia office as medical officer for Child Survival and later as acting team leader for the Maternal, Child Health, and Nutrition team. Susan returned to New Zealand in late 2010 to complete her PhD and undertake Public Health Physician training. She has continued to do consultancy work for WHO in the Solomon Islands in the area of maternal and child health.

Susan's interests include effective translation of evidence into policy, strategy, implementation, and evaluation of public health programmes in under-resourced settings. Her research interests include anaemia and micronutrient deficiencies, child under-nutrition, and effectiveness of maternal and child health interventions.

Michael Maze

Mike MazeMichael is a respiratory and infectious diseases physician who began as a PhD student in 2015 and was based in Moshi, Tanzania, and his thesis was on the impact and social ecology of leptospirosis in northern Tanzania.

Michael graduated in 2019 and his work was funded by the Frances Cotter Memorial Scholarship from the Dunedin School of Medicine

Yvonne Nartey Yvonne Nartey 2016

My career began with a Bsc(Nursing) from the University of Ghana, where I proceeded to work at the University of Ghana Hospital, researching "The reaction of mothers towards preterm babies" at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Accra, Ghana. 

From there I completed an MSc(Global Health) at the University of Oxford with the Cancer Epidemiology Unit, researching cancer incidence among black African women in the Million Women Studies. Both of these were made possible by receiving

  • The Johnson and Johnson Scholarship (University of Oxford Department of Public Health, 2010)
  • The Sadhu T.L. Vaswani / Indian Association of Ghana Scholarship for Brilliant but Needy students (University of Ghana, 2009)

In December 2017 I graduated with my PhD from the University of Otago, researching cervical cancer epidemiology in Ghana. This was co-supervised by Professor Brian Cox (Hugh Adam Cancer Epidemiology Unit) and Professor Philip Hill (Centre for International Health).

Dr Merrin Rutherford

Dr Merrin RutherfordMerrin is a graduate of the University of Otago. Following a BSc degree, Merrin completed her Master of Public Health, where she investigated the relationship between child mortality and health service access.

Until January 2013 Merrin was based in Bandung Indonesia conducting population based tuberculosis research in conjunction with the Medical Research Unit, University of Padjadjaran, as a researcher in the Hill Group of the Centre for International Health. As part of this, she did a PhD in public health aspects of child tuberculosis through Radboud University, the Netherlands. She is now completing a medical degree at the University of Otago.

Merrin's thesis: Studies in tuberculosis in Indonesia, enrolled for PhD, Radboud University Nijmegen, 2009.

Dr Debasish Saha

Dr Debasish SahaDebasish, a physician from Bangladesh, obtained his medical degree from Trivandrum Medical College, Kerala, India, under the Indian Council for Cultural Relation (ICCR) scholarship programme. He did his training in paediatrics at Dhaka Medical College, Bangladesh, and then joined the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B) as medical officer.

Working at ICDDR,B influenced him to become a career public health physician. He obtained the NIH-funded Fogarty Scholarship to pursue his Master's in epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, with special emphasis on infectious disease epidemiology, in 2001.

After obtaining his MSc, Debasish continued to work at ICDDR,B as an assistant scientist. His main focus was to look at the trend of antibiotic resistance against vibrio cholera and shigella.

His team conducted few randomised control trials (RCT) to look at the efficacy of single dose antibiotics for the treatment of cholera and shigellosis. Results of those were published in peer reviewed journals like Lancet and NEJM, and were subsequently incorporated into management guidelines by the WHO.

In 2007, Debasish joined the Gambia unit of Medical Research Council Laboratories (UK) as clinical epidemiologist. In The Gambia he led a multi-centre diarrhoeal disease study in children under five, funded by the Gates Foundation, and collaborated with the University of Maryland, Baltimore, USA.

Debasish graduated in 2014 with his PhD – having earlier been a recipient of a University of Otago Out of Season Scholarship. His research was on disease burden, aetiology, and sequelae of diarrhoea in children under five in sub-Saharan Africa.

Since graduating, Debasish worked at the Centre of International Health on a typhoid fever case-control study, which was under a collaborative project between Australian Government Overseas Aid Programme (AusAID), University of Otago, Melbourne University, Murdoch Children's Research Institute, and Fiji Ministry of Health. Currently Debasish works at Glaxo Smith Kline based in Belgium.

Onalenna Seitio-Kgokgwe

Dr Onalenna Seitio-Kgokgwe

Onalenna, a recipient of a University of Otago Postgraduate Scholarship, started her PhD in July 2008 as the first student in the Centre for International Health. She is a graduate of the University of Botswana and Johns Hopkins University (USA), where she obtained a Bachelor of Education and Master of Science in Nursing respectively.

Onalenna has worked in different capacities at various levels of the health sector in Botswana. Most recently she has worked as a lecturer and head of the Family Nurse Practitioner Programme at the Institute of Health Sciences in Botswana.

In 2005, Onalenna started pursuing a career in public health graduating with a Master of Public Health (double major in health systems management and policy, and social and behavioural sciences) from the University of Limpopo (South Africa) in 2007. Onalenna completed her PhD in February 2012. Her research was in the area of health sector reforms, assessing the impact of the organisational restructuring of the Ministry of Health in Botswana on health sector performance.

She has since returned to Botswana where she works as a Deputy Principal at the Institute of Health Sciences, Ministry of Health, overseeing curriculum implementation in all training programmes.

Dr Toyin Togun

Toyin Togun PhD Graduate co-supervisor P HillToyin is a Nigerian medical doctor who completed a PhD with the Open University (UK), with co-supervision by Philip Hill. His thesis was on the place of biomarkers in the diagnosis of TB in children in The Gambia. He has recently won a prestigious postdoctoral fellowship with Professor Madukar Pai’s group at McGill University, Canada.

Toyin's thesis: Immunodiagnosis of paediatric tuberculosis. Enrolled for PhD 2012 (Open University, UK).

Supervisors: Beate Kampmann, Martin Ota, Philip Hill.

Dr Ayesha VerrallAyesha Verrall

Ayesha Verrall is an infectious diseases physician. Her interest in international health began with a Diploma of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene at the Gorgas Institute in Lima, Peru. Since then she has completed her clinical fellowship at the National University Hospital Singapore, where she remains engaged in research on acute HIV and dengue fever.

Ayesha graduated in May 2018 and her thesis entitled Innate factors in early clearance of Mycobacterium tuberculosis is part of the INFECT collaborative project between University of Otago, Radboud University, and Universitas Padjadjaran.

Supervisors: Philip Hill, Reinout van Crevel (Radboud University), and Katrina Sharples.

Ayesha's research was supported by a Clinical Research Training Fellowship from New Zealand's Health Research Council.

 Watch Dr Verrall's August 2018 graduation address on YouTube

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Master of Public Health graduates

Melissa Anselmo

Melissa Anselmo MPH graduateMelissa is from the United States and joined CIH to do an MPH full year research thesis with Philip Hill. She went to Bandung, Indonesia in collaboration with the University of Padjadjaran and conducted a public health evaluation of case contact management. After completion of her MPH she returned to a research fellowship position at Harvard Medical School.

Melissa's thesis: Situational analysis of case contact management in an Indonesian community tuberculosis clinic. Completed MPH 2011.

Supervisor: Philip Hill

Dr Uzochukwu Egere

Dr Uzochukwu Egere

Uzochukwu is the first recipient of the McGibbon Scholarship offered by the Centre for International Health to study for his Master's in Public Health. He is a medical graduate from the University of Jos, Nigeria, is a Fellow of the West African College of Physicians (Paediatrics), and was awarded Best Senior Resident in the University College Hospital in Ibadan, Nigeria, in 2004.

Having recently worked for the Medical Research Council (UK) in The Gambia, Uzochukwu aspires to make a positive contribution to the glaring international health challenges today and make his mark in the medical profession.

Read more about Dr Uzochukwu Egere

Choolwe Nkwemu Jacobs

Choolwe Nikwemu Jacobs

Choolwe is a graduate of the University of Zambia, where she completed her BSc degree in Medical and Surgical Nursing. She has worked in the Ministry of Health, and most recently has worked as a lecturer in a college of nursing.

In 2010, she was awarded the NZAID scholarship to study Public Health at the University of Otago.

Choolwe's current research is an investigation of the age-specific seroprevalence of antibodies to Hepatitis E virus in children in an urban population of Zambia.

Issac Milne

Isaac is originally from Papua New Guinea (PNG) and completed a Masters of Health Science research degree with Kirsten Lovelock and Philip Hill, on the relationship between sexually transmitted infections and national election campaigns in PNG. He has now returned to work in the public health sector in PNG.

Isaac's thesis: A qualitative study of the social and cultural dynamics underpinning national election campaigns and perceived connections to sexually transmitted infections (STI) in Papua New Guinea. Enrolled for MHSc degree. 2014.

Supervisors: Philip Hill, Kirsten Lovelock.

Alex MorrisonAlex Morrison

Alex Morrison received her BSc(Hons) degree in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of Otago in 2013. Her work, as a part of the Disease Research Laboratory, investigated immune markers that could determine resilience and susceptibility to Mycobacterium paratuberculosis in deer. In 2014 Alex carried out a Postgraduate Diploma in Public Health, and in 2015 graduated with a Master's of Public Health.

Alex's Master’s project was undertaking an evaluation of a World Vision water, sanitation, and nutrition programme on the island of Tanna, Vanuatu.

Supervisors: Professor John Crump, Associate Professor Katrina Sharples, and Dr Susan Jack.

Namrata Prasad

Namrata Prasad

Namrata Prasad was a recipient of the University of Otago Master's scholarship and has a BBiomedSc and Postgraduate Diploma in Public Health from the University of Otago.

She completed her Master's in Public Health looking at febrile illness aetiology in low and middle income countries, with a particular focus on the information and diagnostics gaps regarding non-malarial febrile illness.

Namrata was also involved with the University of Otago's collaboration with the University of Medicine (1), in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma), and conducted part of her thesis research in Yangon, looking at the causes of bloodstream infections.

In 2014 Namrata was based in Fiji, working on a typhoid fever case-control study, which was under a collaborative project between Australian Government Overseas Aid Programme (AusAID), University of Otago, Melbourne University, Murdoch Children's Research Institute, and Fiji Ministry of Health. She has now returned to New Zealand and is working as a public health analyst for the Institute of Environmental Science and Research.

Stephanie Price

Stephanie Price

Stephanie is from Redmond, Washington, USA, and completed her MPH at the University of Otago. Prior to this Stephanie completed a Bachelor of Science in ecology and evolutionary biology at Rice University in 2010, with senior honours research on disease transmission in insects.

Stephanie has worked as an emergency medical technician, and has researched infection control post-hematopoietic stem cell transplantation at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (USA). She then worked with Dr Ifedayo Adetifa and MRC Gambia to assess knowledge of TB after community sensitisation as part of the Global Fund-supported Enhanced Case Finding study.

Stephanie currently works at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

David Summerby-Murray David Summerby-Murray

David Summerby-Murray has a BSc(Hons) in Biology and Biochemistry with a minor in Classical Studies from Mount Allison University, Canada, as well as having completing the Postgraduate Diploma in Public Health at University of Otago. His undergraduate research looked at Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) metabolism in response to environmental heat stress.

David's thesis: Geographical analysis of invasive pneumococcal disease and radiological pneumonia in the Gambian pneumococcal surveillance system.

Supervisors: Professor Philip Hill and Dr Grant Mackenzie.

Looking at childhood pneumonia in The Gambia.

Michael Walsh

Michael completed a MPH by thesis with a large cross-sectional study of Chlamydia infection in women in Samoa. This showed one of the highest prevalence rates in the world. He then took up a position in the Waikato District Health Board public health section.

Michael's thesis: Chlamydia and infertility in Samoa. Enrolled for MPH 2011 (University of Otago). 

Supervisors: Philip Hill, Sailau Suaalii-Sauni

Bachelor of Medical Science with Honours

Aakash Chhibber

Aakash in rural West AfricaAakash Chhibber spent 9 months in rural West Africa in 2012 completing his Bachelor of Medical Science with First Class Honours. During this time, under the guidance of Professor Philip Hill and Dr Grant Mackenzie, he had the opportunity to get involved with field work for the Pneumococcal Surveillance Project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He provided on-the-ground assistance with a case-control study assessing the effectiveness of PCV-13.

His own work focused on identifying children that were at high risk of death after being discharged from a Basse Health Centre, The Gambia. The results of this work will hopefully inform future life-saving interventions and augment current WHO Integrated Management of Childhood Illness Guidelines.

Working with the Medical Research Council (UK) The Gambia Unit was a rich experience that allowed him to better understand the dynamics of academic and clinical medicine in the developing world, which he has since used as a foundation for his clinical training as a doctor.

Aakash also worked with Professor Philip Hill and Professor Keertan Dheda (University of Cape Town), contributing toward a pending Lancet submission defining a nomenclature that better describes the spectrum of latent tuberculosis infection.

Aakash has many extracurricular interests and is a very active community member, contributions which earned him University of Otago Graduates' Association Contribution to the Arts and Culture Award in 2013. The Sri Lankan Students’ Association was also recognised as OUSA Society of the Year under his leadership as co-president.

Aakash graduated with Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) in 2015 and ultimately aims to utilise his skill-set to benefit the wellbeing of deprived people. He is very grateful to his mentors and The Centre for International Health for the opportunities presented to him and would encourage anyone to get involved.

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