The enticement of decoding some of the mystery behind tropical medicine and clinical diseases and the inquisitiveness to understand and overcome cultural differences in clinical and research practice in developing countries, has earned Aubri Carman, a University of Arizona College of Medicine second-year student, the Benjamin H. Kean Travel Fellowship in Tropical Medicine.
The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene selected 20 fellows from 12 medical schools, through a highly competitive process.
The unique fellowship is the only medical student award dedicated to nurturing a career path for physician-scientists in tropical medicine. It is awarded annually to full-time medical students at accredited medical schools in North America. Fellows receive airfare and up to $1,000 in living expenses for a clinical training or research project that takes place in an area where tropical diseases are endemic.
“This premier award is both honorific and substantive. It makes overseas training experiences for students interested in tropical disease possible, and works to build the ranks of physician-scientists focused on diseases in low-income countries,” said Kean Fellowship Committee Chair, Chandy John, MD, MS, University of Minnesota. “The future of tropical medicine and global health is in great hands with these dynamic Fellows who are committed to improving the lives of those suffering from diseases like malaria, dengue or cholera. They inspire me every day.”
Carman is from Tucson, Arizona, and graduated summa cum laude from the University of Arizona in 2012 with degrees in biochemistry/molecular biophysics and molecular/cellular biology, and minors in Spanish, political science, and chemistry. Her undergraduate thesis work involved studies of pediatric S. aureus infections and the applications of mass spectrometry technologies for bacterial characterization.
Clinically, Carman intends to become a pediatric infectious disease specialist and hopes to nd wants her career to combine clinical and policy work aimed at reducing disease burdens worldwide. Particularly, she is interested in HIV/AIDS and the socio-cultural and clinical impacts of the current epidemic in Sub-Saharan Africa.
An avid athlete, Carman was active as a soccer player for both the NCAA and club programs at the University of Arizona and has completed a handful of half marathons, triathlons, and a full marathon. She is heavily involved in the Commitment to Underserved People (CUP) program, where she serves as a coordinator for a pediatric vaccination program, a clinic for women who have been victims of domestic violence, and a sports program for children with physical disabilities. Additionally, she is active in the Global Health Forum as a co-coordinator for their annual conference.
“The Kean Fellowship will enable me to obtain on-the-ground field experience in tropical medicine and global health, which I believe is the most important part of my development as a clinician and researcher interested in such topics,” said Carman. “I have found that it is nearly impossible to understand the complexities and barriers presented in practicing tropical medicine and implementing research projects in developing countries unless one has had experience on the ground, as the day-to-day challenges are unique and can be immensely frustrating.”
Carman began working in global communities in 2010, having gained a clinical internship through the non-government organization, Child Family Health International, working in Cape Town and Durban, South Africa.
A year later, she was named a global health ambassador for the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children in Alajuelita, Costa Rica, where she worked in a small primary care clinic on a public health outreach project for Nicaraguan immigrants addressing nutrition and exercise with local mothers.
This summer, she worked in Lusaka, Zambia for the non-governmental organization/charity called Tiny Tim and Friends (TTF) in their pediatric HIV clinic. Carman ran a research project that looked at the efficacy of different methods for diagnosing tuberculosis in the client population. The title of the study was "A Comparison of Tuberculosis Diagnostic Methods in HIV-Positive Adolescents at a Community Clinic in Urban Zambia."
She helped with protocol design before arriving then supervised the implementation of the study while in Lusaka. “We were looking at four different methods of diagnosing TB and seeing how they compared with reference to basic epidemiology values and then trying to improve the clinic's TB screening questionnaire based upon the results.” Carman and her team collaborated with the Zambia AIDS Related Tuberculosis Project, to do the study.
The travel fellowship is named in honor of Benjamin H. Kean, MD, (1912-1993), an internationally acclaimed tropical medicine expert and personal mentor to many of today’s world-renowned tropical medicine experts who were inspired by him as his students in medical school. Kean is also credited with discovering the causes of several diseases, including turista or travelers’ diarrhea.
Kean was a teacher, researcher and practitioner who was committed to the idea that early, hands-on experience in the developing world is the best way to stimulate a career in tropical medicine, and he was instrumental in helping medical students obtain these experiences.