2016 UNC-IntraHealth Fellows Explore Digital Health, Services for Sex Workers, and More

Chapel Hill, NC

Three new graduates of the UNC-IntraHealth Fellows Program mark the seventh year of partnership between IntraHealth International and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s (UNC) Gillings School of Global Public Health. The two organizations team up every year to offer the 10-week fellowship program, through which graduate and doctoral students get hands-on experience in the field of global health at an international nongovernmental organization.

Each of our 2016 fellows worked side-by-side with IntraHealth experts on projects that address today’s most pressing global health concerns—including Ebola and HIV, digital health and community engagement, and how stigma and bias affect health care. UNC-IntraHealth fellows use real data and the most current research to tackle the realities of health care on the ground in low- and middle-income countries.

Over the course of the program, fellows work directly with IntraHealth’s programs around the world. Some past projects have focused on:

  • HIV
  • family planning
  • maternal and neonatal health
  • health systems strengthening
  • gender
  • health communications
  • monitoring and evaluation
  • respectful maternity care
  • health workforce data
  • noncommunicable diseases

Thirty fellows have now completed the IntraHealth-UNC Summer Fellows Program since its inception in 2010. All graduate students enrolled at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health are eligible to apply to this highly competitive program. Applications become available each year in the fall. 

Meet the 20132014, and 2015 UNC-IntraHealth Summer Fellows, too.


Meet the 2016 IntraHealth-UNC Summer Fellows

Michael DeFranco

Michael DeFranco

Michael DeFranco

Michael DeFranco is an emergency/trauma registered nurse, a former member of the Ebola emergency response team at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, and a former Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala. Now he is pursuing a master’s degree in health behavior at UNC.

During his 2016 fellowship, DeFranco worked closely with David Potenziani to delve into IntraHealth’s digital health initiatives.

“I was a digital health novice before working with the informatics team here at IntraHealth International,” DeFranco says. “The excitement of unknown limitations is helping expand and redefine the virtual boundaries of our digitized world.”

DeFranco gained hands-on experience with mHero, IntraHealth’s mobile phone-based communication system that connects ministries of health and health workers, as well as with our interactive voice response initiatives, Global Digital Health Network messaging, and the Tanzania Health Network Programme.

Willa Dong

Willa Dong

Willa Dong

Before pursuing a doctoral degree in health behavior at UNC, Willa Dong worked with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing, where she studied the mental health needs of female sex workers as part of her research.

During her 2016 fellowship at IntraHealth, Dong worked closely with Jennifer Wesson and the measurement and evaluation team to analyze data on stigma and violence among sex workers in South Sudan, so health workers there can better reach this key population with HIV prevention and treatment services. 

“Those of us who work in global health often think about sex workers’ health needs purely in terms of HIV prevention,” Dong says. “But many existing programs don’t have the resources to address other health concerns, or aren’t available in some regions.”

Kristan Rosenthal

Kristan Rosenthal

Kristan Rosenthal

Kristan Rosenthal served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Botswana and a health educator in New York City before pursuing master’s degrees in social work and public health at UNC. She spent her 2016 fellowship exploring IntraHealth’s work in Senegal and documenting the organization’s approach to working with local communities—including local frontline health workers—to improve health care and make it accessible to more people.

 “Too often, health workers are unsupported, overworked, and only have access to limited resources,” Rosenthal says. “Through building capacity at the local and national levels, IntraHealth helps countries equip their health workers with the skills and support they need to perform well and deliver high-quality health services.”

Rosenthal worked closely with IntraHealth’s Rebecca Kohler to develop a framework and case study of community engagement in global health during her fellowship.

Photos by Meredith Sparks for IntraHealth International.

Also read: Crushing It: Meet the 2016 UNC-IntraHealth Summer Fellows

Meet the 2015 UNC-IntraHealth Summer Fellows.

Meet the 2014 UNC-IntraHealth Summer Fellows.

Meet the 2013 UNC-IntraHealth Summer Fellows.