Nov. 4, 2021 — For one medical student in the M.D.-Ph.D. Training Program at the UF College of Medicine, a prestigious grant will enable her to conduct research some 5,500 miles away from Gainesville in west Africa, beginning in the spring.
Katelyn Flaherty, a fourth-year M.D.-Ph.D. student, was recently awarded a Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship from the competitive Fulbright-Hays Program, which will allow her to conduct a medical needs assessment and pilot a telemedicine and medication delivery service in Ghana, aimed at improving the services available in low- and middle-income countries.
“It’s such an honor to represent UF and the Fulbright Program from Ghana,” Flaherty said.
Her career goal is to work part-time as a clinician and to spend the rest of her time teaching and researching global health initiatives.
She previously visited Ghana and Haiti, where she conducted research similar to what she’ll explore during her upcoming stay in Ghana. While in the Caribbean, she and her team developed a program called MotoMeds, which helps treat pediatric patients with symptoms of acute illness at night. MotoMeds delivers medications by motorcycle, which is important in rural areas with underdeveloped roadway infrastructure.
“We’ve had some success with the program so far, but a lack of emergency services in Haiti makes it difficult to evaluate the generalizability and portability of MotoMeds,” Flaherty said.
During Flaherty’s Fulbright trip, which will last approximately eight months from spring to the end of the year 2022, she and her team will assess the region’s current pediatric primary care and pre-emergency care services, review National Ambulance Service call records, and pilot MotoMeds in the capital city of Accra.
“This is important to study because communicable diseases are very prevalent in Ghana and among some of the top causes of pediatric morbidity and mortality,” Flaherty said. “Providing early treatment can prevent disease progression and reduce the need for emergency services and hospitalization later on.”
She said she’s looking forward to returning to Ghana for the third time. This will be her longest stretch in the country yet.
“Ghanaians are such welcoming people,” she said. “It’s hard to engage in the culture in a short time frame, so I look forward to spending more time in-country to get to know my Ghanaian friends more authentically.”