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Mandela Rhodes Scholar brings new perspective
to OU-COM research

                    Aalyia Sadruddin and Gillian Ice, PH.D., M.P.H

By Suzanne McMillen

In April, Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine welcomed researcher Aalyia Sadruddin, a 2009 Mandela Rhodes Scholar, who for the next two years will work on research related to health care in Kenya and the Kenyan Grandparents Study, a project that examines the impact of caregiving for orphaned children on the health and well-being of Luo elders in rural western Kenya. 

Together with Gillian Ice, PH.D., M.P.H., associate professor of social medicine, Ms. Sadruddin’s current research projects include papers on stress of grandparent caregivers in the context of HIV, and socioeconomic status and obesity. She will also be working on publishing some of her own work centered around disease perception. This research is an extension of her master’s thesis, which assessed how nurses perceive malaria and HIV/AIDS and how meanings of help-seeking behaviors are administered.

Ms. Sadruddin defines her academic interests as “understanding African perspectives of health, illness, and disease with the broader aim of devising health policies that reflect African needs.” Her ultimate goal is to attain the necessary applied skills needed in the social medicine field to go back to Africa as a field researcher and help co-develop projects that directly involve community members.

 “I grew up in a context where I’ve seen malaria and HIV in my back yard. I have never been able to distance myself from both diseases and they are a part of what constitutes my situated knowledge,” she says. “It didn’t make sense to me, as an aspiring practitioner in the field, not to meet that context.”

Raised In Kisumu, Kenya, Sadruddin describes her experience growing up in Kenya as a “knowledge pool.” Her experiences with malaria and HIV in Kenya and South Africa and her insight from watching her father at work as a cardiologist encouraged her to focus her studies on health care needs in African communities. Her most life-changing moment, however, she says was her introduction, as a Mandela Rhodes Scholar, to Mr. Nelson Mandela in 2008.

“It was getting the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship when I realized that bringing about change in your own context - your own field or whatever your vision in life is - is all about your own personal capacity, and stretching yourself to a new personal level,” she said. “It really made me aware of what my own personal project is, the ethical journey I hope to follow in obtaining that, and realizing this journey is not going to be an easy ride.”

Ms. Sadruddin assists in drafting research for publication, develops grant proposals to continue research projects, conducts background research, and acts as an outreach liaison to other organizations that have mutual goals to lay the groundwork for expanding projects and creating new ones. One such project is the World Health Organization Study on Global AGEing and Adult Health (SAGE), which is part of a longitudinal survey program to compile comprehensive information on the health and well-being of adult populations and the aging process.

The Mandela Rhodes foundation was launched in 2003 to build exceptional leadership capacity in Africa. Each year the Foundation awards up to 30 scholarships to young African students who demonstrate a strong capacity for academic and leadership skills. Mandela Rhodes Scholars are given the opportunity to pursue their chosen post-graduate degree while also benefiting from access to leadership development programs that support the Foundation’s principles. Ms. Sadruddin was one of 28 recipients of the award in 2009. Since the Scholars program inception in 2005, 123 scholarships have been awarded.

Ms. Sadruddin graduated with distinction from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2011, having received a master’s degree in Health Sociology and an interdisciplinary honours degree in Medical Anthropology, Health Sociology and Demography and Population studies.

She had been following Dr. Ice’s ongoing research and work for the past six years, which led her to pursue a position with Ice and OU-COM. Ms. Sadruddin described Ice as “a great inspiration to an aspiring academic” and notes that they share similar fascinations for the discipline of anthropology.

“It has been a pleasure to have Aalyia here in the department of social medicine,” Dr. Ice said. “She brings with her not only a strong academic background and real world sensibility, but also a cheerful personality and enthusiasm for global health issues that has been infectious both in the department and with students pursuing global health interests.” 

Ms. Sadruddin says that working on the research has allowed her and Ice to continue building a sustainable relationship with a community that, in some cases, would otherwise be unable to access health care. “OU-COM represents the health issues faced in Kenya and sub-Saharan Africa quite widely, and I feel good that I can bring a different aspect and that they appreciate that,” she said.

Never taking the opportunity for education for granted, Ms. Sadruddin is getting the most out of her experience at OU-COM. “I am doing exactly what I want to spend the rest of my life doing,” she said. “And the fact that at the age of 23 I’ve basically been told to run with it, I want to sprint!”

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Last updated: 01/28/2016