June 03, 2020

Kennedy is first UAB SOM student to receive Fulbright-Fogarty Fellowship in Public Health

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Grace Kennedy sizedGrace Kennedy, third-year medical student, has been selected for the Fulbright-Fogarty Fellowship in Public Health and plans to conduct malaria research in Ghana. This marks a huge achievement since she is UAB School of Medicine’s FIRST recipient of this special partnership grant offered through the U.S. Department of State’s Fulbright Program and the Fogarty International Center of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Like many of her fellow med students, Kennedy first considered a career in medicine after an experience with a close family member's illness, and seeing the response from some incredible physicians. Her path was cemented, however, after a year spent in Baltimore in the lab of Dr. David Sullivan at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health & Malaria Research Institute. Kennedy says, “seeing the impact of the research done in that lab on a global scale, and seeing Dr. Sullivan's connections with patients one-on-one in the hospital made me understand how exciting and meaningful medicine could be.”

Before medical school, Kennedy lived abroad and worked as a researcher in the rural Limpopo region of South Africa alongside international scientists and researchers. It was there that she learned what it meant to be persistent in order to obtain results. In reminiscing about this time, Kennedy recalls, “living on this mountain working with people from many different backgrounds taught me that we are all more alike than different, and the long days of data collection grounded my commitment to science and research.”

Grace Kennedy Sharing Research from John Hopkins at Annual ASTMH Conference sizedKennedy sharing her research from Johns Hopkins at the annual American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene (ASTMH) Conference in November 2016 in Atlanta.The Fulbright-Fogarty Awards were established to promote the expansion of research in public health and clinical research in resource-limited settings and are designed for candidates who are currently enrolled in medical school or in a graduate-level program and who are interested in global health. These opportunities align with the mission of the Office of International Medical Education (IME) to create and foster global partnerships with the aim of developing innovative, collaborative and interdisciplinary educational programs and establish UAB as a leader in the training of global healthcare providers. For this reason, last August IME took an active role in promoting the Fulbright Program and encouraged our UAB medical students, residents and fellows to apply by offering a $100 incentive to anyone who submitted an application. In partnership with the Office of National and International Fellowships and Scholarships, IME also hosted a representative from the Institute for International Education, which oversees the Fulbright Scholarship Program, for a visit to UAB. IME organized a Lunch & Learn where over 55 attendees (medical students, residents, and fellows) had an opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the application process and what it means to be a Fulbright global fellow.

Kennedy was in attendance that day and met Majd Zayzafoon, M.D., Ph.D., assistant dean for International Medical Education, and later sought guidance on the application process. When she first heard about this opportunity, Kennedy said, “I couldn't imagine a program whose missions aligned more closely with my own. The people I've met from around the world as a researcher, musician, and student have shown me over and over again that human connection with others enriches us all and provides mutual understanding, and that a life dedicated to medicine & science must reach beyond national borders.”

Although the COVID-19 pandemic may delay the start of her training, Zayzafoon is extremely proud of her achievement. “This is the perfect time and opportunity for our medical students to take full advantage of opportunities to transcend continents and train with fellow scientists and researchers around the world. There is no better time to join forces, minds, and resources to improve healthcare for every member of society”, he said.