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NIH Abroad: Inspiring the Next Generation of Global Health Researchers

Inspiring the Next Generation of Global Health Researchers
Fogarty scholar helps Zambians fight cervical cancer

Medical student and Fogarty scholar

Medical student and Fogarty scholar
Krista Pfaendler (right) assists with surgery
on a patient with cervical cancer in Zambia.
Photo courtesy of Krista Pfaendler

An innovative Fogarty Center program provides graduate-level students the opportunity to spend a year doing research at a site in the developing world.

One recent graduate of this Fogarty International Clinical Research Scholars Program spent a year in Zambia helping to build a cervical cancer screening and treatment initiative. Cervical cancer is the deadliest form of cancer among African women. Those infected with HIV/AIDS are five times more likely to develop cervical cancer. Since women account for more than half of those living with AIDS in Zambia, the problem is enormous.

Krista Pfaendler, a third-year medical student from the University of Pittsburgh, spent a year in Zambia helping to build a cervical cancer screening and treatment program.

Pfaendler and her colleagues at the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia implemented a number of innovative ideas, including the use of inexpensive digital cameras for cervical photography and a low-cost method of visual inspection using acetic acid, which is essentially household vinegar. "It was important that we integrate these practices into the public health system that already existed in Zambia, rather than reinventing everything," she said.

During her 10-month stint, 15 nurses were trained and more than 8,800 cervical exams were conducted. Of the nearly 1,500 women referred for further testing, about 150 were diagnosed with cancer.

For Pfaendler, the experience has changed her life and the focus of her career, she says. "Human interaction has always been important to me, but working with these patients in Zambia lit a fire in me."

Read More "Special Section: Global Health" Articles
Good Health Is a Global Issue / Worldwide Discoveries Help People Everywhere / NIH Abroad: Pictures Are Crowd Pullers / NIH Abroad: Inspiring the Next Generation of Global Health Researchers / Against the Odds / Against the Odds Exhibition Opens

Spring 2008 Issue: Volume 3 Number 2 Pages 13