How Bass Connections Shaped Our Career Paths in Health and Medicine

April 1, 2022

Five Bass Connections alumni.

For these five alumni, Bass Connections was a vital part of their journey to careers in health and medicine. While undergraduates at Duke, they joined Bass Connections teams that took on challenges in global health and health inequities at home, from refugee healthcare to athlete brain trauma to the opioid epidemic. Through hands-on research with interdisciplinary teams of faculty, graduate students, undergraduates and partner organizations, they gained knowledge and built skills that propelled them into the next stage of their studies and careers.

Advocating for Healthcare Accessibility Among Refugees

Danielle Mayorga-Young, French Studies and Neuroscience ’19

MD Student, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry

Danielle Mayorga-Young.Danielle Mayorga-Young worked on a Bass Connections project that addressed health needs among refugee children and families in Durham County. Combining both her interest in healthcare and her experience volunteering with Durham’s French-speaking refugee community, this project was a perfect fit.

She learned about the value of qualitative research and how to ask good questions, conduct focus groups and honor individual responses while refining the overarching themes of the research study. Her team published their findings, won the best poster award at the Bass Connections Showcase and presented at the National Refugee Health Conference.

Mayorga-Young also learned about the immense struggles people can go through to access healthcare in the United States, and what they value in their providers and the care they receive. Hearing about their experiences convinced her that providers must pay attention to patients’ mental health, social life and lived environment in addition to their biology, in order to treat them effectively.

This biopsychosocial model of medicine inspired her to attend medical school at the University of Rochester. There, she has utilized her skills to look into culturally-appropriate depression screening tools and working toward improving how the student-run health clinics serve the local population. Read more.

“This research also gave me a whole new set of skills, and has shaped my future goals in profound ways.”

Deepening Knowledge of the Brain

Elizabeth Ginalis, Neuroscience ’16

Resident Physician, Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School

Elizabeth Ginalis.Elizabeth Ginalis furthered her interest in learning about the human brain through her Bass Connections project. She and her team members used oculomotor tests, which determine if a patient has a vestibular disorder linked to a concussion, to assess mild traumatic brain injury in local high school athletes. She continued to follow this passion through medical school, where she specialized in neurosurgery.

Now, as a neurosurgery resident at Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School, she manages patients with conditions affecting the brain and spine, including some with traumatic brain injuries. Read more.

“Bass Connections was an integral part of my undergraduate experience that ultimately shaped my career choice in medicine.”

Linking Environmental and Human Health

Joshua Grubbs, Chemistry and Global Health ’18

MD/MPH Candidate, Tufts University School of Medicine

Joshua Grubbs.Joshua Grubbs' first Bass Connections project focused on the environmental epidemiology of a tropical disease transmitted by a sandfly, called cutaneous leishmaniasis, and malaria in Peru. His second project focused on another region of the Peruvian Amazon and the problem of mercury exposure. He and his team members piloted a health intervention and examined how diet and associated behavior affected human health.

His Bass Connections experience provided him with the opportunity to delve into the intimate connection between human and environmental health, and in doing so, he got to experience working directly with community members to address population health needs. Read more.

“Our work set me along my current path, from my undergraduate experience, to my research at the Fogarty International Center at NIH, and now the MD/MPH degree I am pursuing at Tufts. Two threads tie each of these together — the importance of people’s environments to leading healthy lives and the necessity of working in teams to meet this goal.”

Joshua Grubbs and his team in Peru.
Joshua Grubbs with team members and partners in Peru

Confronting the Opioid Epidemic

Katie Kanter, Neuroscience ’18

MD Candidate, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

Katie Kanter.Katie Kanter's Bass Connections project was pivotal in her decision to pursue medicine as a career. Whether connecting with people going through in-patient recovery to active heroin users promoting harm reduction techniques or to law enforcement officers applying innovative mental health practices to their work, her team took on the responsibility of amplifying often stigmatized voices from a position of respect.

As a doctor, she plans to continue to take on opportunities to be an advocate for her patients, finding transformative ways to create meaningful change. Since starting medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, she has been working with a start-up to develop a harm reduction device that will sense and reverse opioid overdose using naloxone. Read more.

“I cannot understate how influential Bass Connections has been in every aspect of my career thus far. As an undergraduate researcher with my team, I had a hand in my first submission to an IRB, my first grant application, my first poster presentations and my first publication, all while learning essential team-based soft skills I have used every day since.”

Katie Kanter and her team.
Katie Kanter (center) with team leader Nicole Schramm-Sapyta (second from left) and some of her team members

Understanding the Patient’s Experience

Shweta Lodha, Chemistry and Neuroscience ’19

MD Student, Duke University School of Medicine

Shweta Lodha.Bass Connections provided Shweta Lodha with foundational skills to excel in her work as a research associate at the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine. Her Bass Connections experience fostered her interest in understanding the complex relationship between a physician and a patient. Interviewing several individuals with rheumatoid arthritis helped her realize that medication adherence is a highly complex phenomenon that can be affected by a patient’s social, cultural and financial status.

As a member of the Patients’ Journey to Medication Adherence project, she learned how to conduct a thorough literature review, write for publication and work effectively within a team setting. These skills enabled her to seamlessly navigate the multifaceted responsibilities of a full-time researcher. Lodha is currently a medical student at Duke School of Medicine. Read more.

“As a future doctor, I hope to continue to investigate methods to improve patient care, while grounding my work in rigid compassion for a patient’s lived experience.”

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