Global and Local Partners and Inspiring Mentorship Catalyze Innovations in Integrated Care

September 27, 2019

GANDHI team.

Dr. Janet Prvu Bettger focuses her research on improving outcomes for people who experience a life-altering injury or illness. The Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery launched the Global Alliance on Disability and Health Innovation (GANDHI for short) to develop and test integrated care models that help vulnerable people gain independence and reintegrate into their communities living with disability or chronic disease.

Janet Bettger.Dr. Bettger brought students into her work through a Bass Connections project team that began in 2016. Team members compared strategies and policies in different countries, and country partners joined the team meetings by video to describe hospital-to-home transitions in their contexts. Projects in 2017 focused on digital health and stroke systems of care in the Asia-Pacific region.

In 2018, Dr. Bettger and Assistant Professor of Surgery Dr. Catherine Staton received a grant from NIH to build capacity for hospital-to-home care transitions for trauma and injury patients in Tanzania.

Last year, GANDHI team members focused locally. To help address unmet needs, they partnered with Durham’s Lincoln Community Health Center to design Help Desk, an initiative in which student volunteers follow up with local patients who have been referred to community services.

Students also led Duke’s application to be designated as an Exercise is Medicine campus, held a public colloquium and presented the academic-community-health system partnership at the American College of Sports Medicine Conference.

Bass Connections Invites Proposals for 2020-2021 Projects

Duke faculty, staff, postdocs, graduate students, trainees and fellows are invited to submit proposals for projects that engage in interdisciplinary research into complex societal challenges. Please see the proposal guidelines and apply by November 4 at 5:00 p.m.

I have found leading Bass Connections to be professionally transformational for me as an educator. Working with students across schools and programs brought new meaning to interdisciplinary research, and I am forever committed to engaging undergraduate students in clinical and population health research.

Janet Prvu Bettger, Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery

Undergraduates Honor Dr. Bettger for Her Mentorship

Four students reflected on Dr. Bettger’s mentorship and her impact on their trajectories. In addition to her role as faculty lead for GANDHI, Dr. Bettger mentored these students for their senior honors theses.

Sahil Sandhu, Jackie Xu and Janet Bettger at the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy Student Graduation Celebration.
Sahil Sandhu, Jackie Xu and Janet Bettger enjoy a moment at the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy Student Graduation Celebration.

Dr. Bettger is an exemplary person. Duke students could not be luckier to have her around campus, as she is constantly dreaming and creating the next thing—starting new initiatives and plugging more people in. Beyond her generous sponsorship and mentorship, Dr. Bettger carries a deep sense of humility. She finds learning opportunities from everyone, including her many students. This has led her to a diversity of experience that continues to fuel her drive to make the world a better place. Dr. Janet Bettger leads by teaching and championing her students. Everything she touches on is influenced by these principles of ambition, humility and integrity.

Jackie Xu, B.A. in Public Policy, Class of 2019, Incoming Business Analyst at McKinsey & Company

Natalie Yu, Janet Bettger, Lillian Blanchard, Chelsea Liu, Sahil Sandhu and Jackie Xu explore Beijing during their Bass Connections GANDHI trip to China.
Natalie Yu, Janet Bettger, Lillian Blanchard, Chelsea Liu, Sahil Sandhu and Jackie Xu explore Beijing during their Bass Connections GANDHI trip to China.

One term I learned about this summer is ‘sponsorship,’ and I feel that’s what Dr. Bettger did for me while I was at Duke. Beyond being a mentor who guided me through much of my work in global health, she actively referred me to opportunities that might pique my interest and she was invested in helping me succeed. I started out at Duke curious about health and healthcare. Then I joined Dr. Bettger’s Bass Connections team in my sophomore year, and the rest is history.

She played a key role in helping me conceptualize, refine and complete my DukeEngage independent project and senior thesis. She would ping me interesting events to get involved in and follow through with references or any other help I might need to actually participate in them. Taken together, these experiences have helped me realize that my true passion lies in this field. What is truly remarkable is that I’m not the only student Janet invests so much in! She makes the time in her incredibly packed schedule to do the same for many other students. And if I conclude without mentioning the fact that Dr. Bettger truly cares for our well-being and for us as people (not just students), that wouldn’t be doing her justice. Thank you so much for everything, Dr. Bettger!

Natalie Yu Chin Wen, B.S. in Cognitive Science in Innovation and Society (Program II), Class of 2019, Master of Science Candidate in Community Health and Prevention Research at Stanford University

Chelsea Liu acknowledges Dr. Bettger’s mentorship at the end of her presentation at the Consortium of Universities for Global Health annual conference.
Chelsea Liu acknowledges Dr. Bettger’s mentorship at the end of her presentation at the Consortium of Universities for Global Health annual conference.

When I worked with Dr. Bettger on my undergraduate senior thesis, she provided me with opportunities to pursue the research questions that I was interested in by connecting me with her collaborators at Beijing Tiantan Hospital and Johns Hopkins University. She has a dynamic ability to connect and engage with people from diverse backgrounds, which facilitated these collaborations by making everybody feel at ease. She has also provided invaluable career advice by sharing her experience in academia and her career trajectory, emphasizing the importance of personal life in these conversations. I deeply appreciate her advocacy on my behalf in professional settings, and I look to her as an example of how to achieve work-life balance in academia.

Chelsea Liu, B.A. in Computer Science, Class of 2018, Master of Health Sciences Candidate in Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health 

GANDHI students meet with clinicians and researchers at Tiantan Comprehensive Stroke Center in Beijing.
GANDHI students meet with clinicians and researchers at Tiantan Comprehensive Stroke Center in Beijing.

Dr. Bettger has transformed my trajectory at Duke. When our Bass Connections team traveled to China for a digital health conference, she taught us about the art and science of scaling and spreading evidence-based health interventions. Our work together inspired me to create my own degree called Health Innovation: Evidence to Impact. In 2018, Dr. Bettger closely mentored my peers and me to launch a social determinants initiative locally in Durham.

She constantly encourages her students to dream big and translate ideas into meaningful action. Not only has Dr. Bettger mentored our community-engaged research projects, she has also led by example—she creates an inclusive and collaborative learning environment, cultivates connections and partnerships across the university and demonstrates an unmatched dedication to her students. I am constantly amazed by her unwavering commitment to engaging undergraduates in health research. I am thrilled that she will continue to inspire undergraduates through Bass Connections and as the new Director for Undergraduate Initiatives at the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy.

Sahil Sandhu, B.S. in Health Innovation: Evidence to Impact (Program II), Class of 2020

Bass Connections supports the Duke WILL strategic framework for shaping the university of tomorrow. The GANDHI project team is one example of how Duke is transforming teaching and forging partnerships across the region.

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