WACh Priority Areas in Focus: Gut Health and Child Survival

Our third and final Scientific Priority Area hones in on the life-saving ability of family planning services. Women face significant barriers to finding a contraception method that fits their unique needs, or gaining access to support to make informed reproductive decisions.

By providing new support and data collection tools, we can bring the health care system closer to women and their families, bring their health concerns to the attention of decision makers, and reduce the unmet need for family planning.

We can provide Family Planning Decision Support.

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WACh Priority Areas in Focus: Gut Health and Child Survival

Global WACh Scientific Priorities develop a deeper focus on our research efforts to decrease morbidity and mortality among women, adolescents, and children. Gut Health and Child Survival is vital to understanding and improving this inter-generational health and well-being.

CaptureWhen we asked this scientific priority’s co-lead, Dr. Patricia Pavlinac, what the greatest challenge is to developing interventions for enteric and diarrheal disease, she says, “Even among children who survive diarrhea, multiple episodes of the disease and the underlying enteric infections can lead to chronic malnutrition, increased risk of lower respiratory tract infections, cognitive disabilities, and poor school performance. These consequences hold extreme economic and societal implications.”

Gut Health and Child Survival
is our response to the unmet need for programs to treat and prevent the adverse effects of enteric and diarrheal disease. We strive to ensure children survive and reach their developmental potential.


WACh Priority Areas in Focus: HIV Through the Lifecycle

Today we introduce our Scientific Priority Area of HIV through the Lifecycle.

Our center has cultivated expertise in HIV/AIDS since its inception, and our focus has always been on the intersection of three key populations: women, children and adolescents. While AIDS-related deaths are decreasing in children and adults, they are increasing in adolescents, which is why strategies for prevention and treatment of adolescents is a major focus of our priority area. By focusing on interventions during critical life stages for pregnant women, infants, and adolescents, we can prevent HIV from persisting throughout the duration of a person’s life and into the next generation.

This is how we will transform HIV testing and treatment approaches and achieve an AIDS free generation.

This is HIV Through the Lifecycle.

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Global WACh reaffirms research commitments; launches new Scientific Priority Areas

When Global WACh completed its fifth year in June, we took a look back at the vision and goals that catalyzed the creation of our Center in 2011. The Global Center for Woman, Adolescent, and Child health was established to pursue scientific discovery and leadership development by breaking down traditional silos that separate disciplines. In doing so, we foster collaborative approaches that emphasize the interdependent nature of woman, adolescent and child health.  We shaped our Center’s approach to research using a lifecycle perspective- one that views women, children and adolescents as interconnected populations that move along a shared life course.

It is from this this perspective that we introduce three newly articulated scientific priority areas to guide Global WACh in our mission to make scientific discoveries, cultivate leaders, and bridge disciplines to advance the tightly connected health and well-being of women, adolescents and children.

Our Scientific Priorities:

  • HIV Through the Lifecycle
  • Gut Health and Child Survival
  • Family Planning Decision Support

We’ve refined our Core identities into three Scientific Priority Areas to clearly convey how Global WACh contributes to research that accelerates health improvements and decreases unnecessary deaths of women, adolescent and children. We hope this deeper focus will enrich our collaborations and expand our capacity to contribute and implement research with meaningful effects on the health of women, adolescents, and children.

Throughout the coming weeks, we will share a post about these three Scientific Priority Areas: what their specific response to global health challenges will be, their missions and focus areas, and what their leadership is most excited about moving forward.

We look forward to sharing our continued commitment to WACh research with you!

Celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Over the past 15 years, the global community has made concerted efforts to inspire and engage women and girls in science. According to a study conducted in 14 countries, the probability of a female student graduating with a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and Doctor’s degree in a science-related field are 18%, 8% and 2% respectively, while the percentages of male students are 37%, 18% and 6%.

The UN General Assembly recognizes that full and equal access to and participation in science, technology, and innovation is imperative for empowering women and girls of all ages. As a response, one year ago the General Assembly declared February 11th as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

This weekend we celebrate the Day in recognition of the critical role women and girls play in science and technology communities—including education, training, and research activities at all levels. To observe International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we are highlighting three members of our Graduate Certificate program. These three students are each making meaningful contributions to their respective scientific fields, and, they are also women.

HFrizzellHannah Frizzell is a third year PhD student in the Department of Bioengineering. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering and is currently a graduate research fellow working on mucosal immunoengineering, vaccines, drug delivery, and how these relate to women’s and children’s health on a global scale. Hannah is the Vice President of Funding at UW’s Bioengineers without Borders, which develops medical devices for resource-limited areas. She mentors a team focused on a low-cost device for diagnosis of pre-eclampsia in pregnant women. Hannah is also a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and a Roche/Achievement Awards for College Scientists (ARCS) scholar. As she progresses in her field, she hopes to apply both her technical background and experience from the Global WACh program to create and integrate medical technologies into communities to improve their accessibility and thus ultimate effectiveness in improving health globally.

Ke-Pan-200x300Ke Pan is an MPH student in the Department of Global Health, having received her BA in Public Health with a concentration in Maternal and Child Health from Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) and Masters Degree in Medicine from Third Military Medical University in China. Prior to coming to UW, she worked as a resident in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology for three years and conducted research about the quality of women’s life after surgery for Pelvic Organ Prolapse. She also conducted a research regarding the prevalence of hypertension and obesity in adolescents. Ke Pan is deeply interested in improving global health disparities of women, adolescents and children through education, awareness, and access to healthcare.

MollyFeder_PhotoMolly Feder is an MPH student in the Department of Epidemiology with a concentration in Maternal and Child Health. She received her BA in International Affairs concentrating in Global Health from the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University. Prior to attending UW, Molly worked as a Government Relations Associate and Database Administrator at the Council for Responsible Nutrition in Washington, DC where she advocated for enhanced FDA oversight of the vitamin and supplement industry. As an MPH student, Molly is a Maternal and Child Health Trainee and is interested in research pertaining to family planning and reproductive health.

We’re proud of the interdisciplinary commitment these three students have made to advance health care globally within the fields of women, adolescent, and child health. Please click here to learn about each of our fantastic certificate students and the impact they are making in their fields.

On the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we also hear from Chief Information Technology Officer of the United Nations, Atefah “Atti” Riazi, who urges all girls to aspire to be ‘geeks.’ Click here to read.

Building evidence for HIV risk with contraceptive methods

Renee Heffron

Renee Heffron is the grant’s primary investigator.

Dr. Renee Heffron, co-director of our Global WACh Family Planning Working Group, has received new funding from the NIH to tie into the Evidence for Contraceptive Options and HIV Outcomes (ECHO) Study. ECHO enrolls participants in sub-Saharan Africa for a randomized trial of three equally safe and effective contraceptive methods: the copper T intrauterine device (IUD); injectable depo-medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA), also known as the Depo shot; and the Jadelle implant.

For sub-Saharan African women at risk for becoming infected with HIV, it is important to build knowledge around potential associations of specific contraceptives with HIV acquisition. A number of observational studies have examined whether or not use of hormonal methods affects the risk of HIV acquisition. Some of these studies suggest that injectable methods—particularly the Depo shot—might increase a woman’s risk of acquiring HIV infection, while other studies show no association. The World Health Organization continuously reviews the information about contraceptives and, thus far, has determined that all of the contraceptives that will be used in the ECHO Study are safe for women at risk of HIV risk infection, but that more research is needed.


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With this additional funding, ECHO will now begin to measure biological markers periodically over the three-year trial period associated with the Depo shot, the Jadelle implant, and the copper IUD. These markers include vaginal microbiome, markers of inflammation, HIV target cells, protein signatures, and transcriptome to identify differences between women using the different contraceptives.

Read the full story from ASPPH here.

Fred Hutch Science Spotlight: Reduced CMV Transmission

A collaboration between scientists at the University of Washington and the Fred Hutch Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division looks at antiretroviral use and Cytomegalovirus transmission in mothers and children in Kenya. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is an opportunistic infection contracted by people with HIV. In Kenya, most HIV- exposed children acquire CMV within the first year of life, primarily through their mother’s breast milk. These infants with both HIV and CMV have an increased risk of disease progression, neurologic disease and death. Researchers within this collaboration evaluated the impact of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) on CMV transmission and breast milk levels related to maternal HIV.

Jenn Slyker

Jennifer Slyker is the study’s primary investigator.

The Science Spotlight team at Fred Hutch selected this team’s recent study for the December issue of Science Spotlight, a monthly online publication highlighting scientific investigation. Dr. Jennifer Slyker, Global WACh Assistant Director, says in the Spotlight: “We were surprised to see an effect on CMV transmission but not on CMV DNA levels in breast milk, which we think is the major mode of CMV transmission in the first year of life. Other groups have also observed this in observational studies. Our next step is to explore maternal and infant immune mechanisms of protection.”

The research concludes new findings to suggest that starting HAART later in pregnancy may decrease infant CMV infections, by mechanisms independent of breast milk CMV levels. These data also suggest that policy changes in high-HIV burden countries for starting pregnant women on lifetime antiretrovirals could have profound implications for the epidemiology of mother-to-child CMV transmission at a population level.

Read more about the study here in the December edition of the Science Spotlight.

Gut Health and Child Survival at ASTMH

This week, members of our enteric research team are in Atlanta, Georgia for the 65th annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH). They join approximately 4,400 other researchers, government and public health officials, practicing physicians, students, and all health care providers working in the fields of tropical medicine, hygiene, and global health.

Our Healthy Growth and Development Core is dedicated to optimizing care in young children at high risk of diarrhea-associated mortality and the ASTMH annual meeting provides our team with a unique opportunity to discuss recent findings, build inspiration for our next big projects, and re-energize our commitment to reducing the worldwide burden of tropical infectious diseases to improve health around the world.

Yesterday ASTMH heard from Rebecca Brander on correlations of drug resistance in Kenyan children with acute bacterial diarrhea. Rebecca is a MPH student at the University of Washington and completed this research in collaboration with Global WACh directors Grace John-Stewart, Patty Pavlinac, and Judd Walson. Patty Pavlinac, our Health Growth and Development director, leads the Global WACh representation at the conference.

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Rebecca’s study “Host and Environmental Correlates of Multi-Drug Resistance in Kenyan Children with Acute Bacterial Diarrhea” is a key area of research for addressing the prevalence in which bacterial diarrhea results in significant morbidity and mortality in children in sub-Saharan Africa. Antibiotic treatment can be a life-saving intervention, but the antibiotic resistance has rapidly emerged in this population of children, and now this intervention’s efficacy is limited. The study’s data pinpoints risk factors for antibiotic resistance in enteric pathogens, in order to inform diarrhea management recommendations and control resistance.

Click to read the entire study

2015 Global WACh-Coulter Seed Grant recipients create anesthesia device for developing countries

In 2015, a group of engineering students proposed the idea for a low-cost, portable anesthesia delivery device specifically for use in resource-poor regions. The device’s aim was to overcome the challenge individuals in low-resource settings face when crucial medical procedures are often not performed due to a lack of accessible anesthesia delivery.

A $30,000 seed grant from the Global WACh-Coulter Foundation in 2015 allowed the team to design a benchtop test circuit, including a prototype of a simplified anesthetic vaporizer. With investigative mentorship from UW faculty and anesthesiology specialists, these students are now working to create the device that will make more surgeries possible and reduce unnecessary deaths.

Read more about this ongoing project here.

Introducing the New Class of Global WACh Certificate Students

As we welcome the start of another academic year here at the University of Washington, we also welcome a group of highly motivated graduate students to the Global WACh Certificate Program. These seven new students join the 12 current members of our certificate program, entering a robust interdisciplinary community dedicated to improving the health of women, adolescents, and children.

From refugee resettlement work in Philadelphia, to Peace Corps service in Burkina Faso, these students’ experiences span multiple countries and disciplines, making them among the University of Washington’s most qualified graduate students to impact health around the globe. Read about each of our new students below, and please join us in welcoming them to the Global WACh community!


jadeJade Fairbanks is an MPH student in the Department of Health Services, and received her BA in Public Health and Medical Anthropology from the University of Washington. Prior to starting the MPH program, Jade was a Peace Corps volunteer in Burkina Faso, working in the field of reproductive health education, and improving health services and delivery at the village maternity. She spent last summer working as a GO Health Fellow in Merrueshi, Kenya to develop an all-girls mentorship program titled “Yes S.H.E. Can: Sharing Her Empowerment” as well as a training manual for community health workers to educate on childhood malnutrition, and implement mandatory malnutrition screenings.  Within the field of maternal and child health, she is particularly interested in expanding access to family planning services and reducing adolescent and unwanted pregnancies through educational outreach and program implementation.

HFrizzellHannah Frizzell is a third year Ph. D. student in the department of Bioengineering. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Texas, Austin and completed a minor in Spanish. She is currently a graduate research fellow working with Dr. Kim A. Woodrow, focusing on mucosal immunoengineering, vaccines, drug delivery, and how these relate to women’s and children’s health on a global scale. Her current work is centered around improving oral vaccination through the combination of biotechnology and immunology. Hannah is the Vice President of Funding of University of Washington Bioengineers without Borders, which develops medical devices for resource-limited areas. She mentors a teams focused on a low-cost device for diagnosis of pre-eclampsia in pregnant women. Hannah is also a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and a Roche/Achievement Awards for College Scientists (ARCS) scholar. As she progresses in her field, she hopes to apply both her technical background and experience from the Global WACh program to create and integrate medical technologies into communities to improve their accessibility and thus ultimate effectiveness in improving health globally.

Isatou Jallow is pursuing a Masters of Law in Sustainable International Development. A lawyer and refugee from Gambia, Isatou is interested in many different human rights and development-related legal issues. She received her BA in Law and Political Science from the University Mohamed V in Rabat, Morocco. More recently at the University of Washington, she completed a year of service at the University of Washington School of Law’s Development Innovation Lab, where she researched conditions of women mining in the DRC and contributed to the formation of an NGO to assist these communities. One focus in particular is on the eradication of Female Genital Mutilation among immigrant communities in the U.S. She has spoken at the invitation of a number of organizations in the Seattle area, including UW Medicine/Harborview, the Northwest Immigrants’ Rights Project, and Somali Maternity Services, providing a perspective for health care workers and others working with immigrants and survivors of Female Genital Mutilation from Sub-Saharan Africa.

CaptureShadae Paul is pursuing a joint Master’s degree in Public Health and Public Administration and is interested in learning methods to increase women’s access to resources and services in their communities. After earning her BA at University of Maryland, College Park, Shadae served as a Peace Corps Community Health Promotion Facilitator in Fiji- an experience which serves as the foundation for her interest in global maternal and child health. She has spent many years working with women, children, and families both locally and internationally, including organizations such as the International Rescue Committee (IRC), March of Dimes, Mary’s Center, and Hagerstown Birth. Shadae looks forward to strengthening interdisciplinary skills needed to address complex global health issues through the Global WACh certificate program.

Lauren Rotkis is a candidate in the Pediatric Doctorate of Nursing Practice program. She completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Washington, a Master of Science in Complementary and Alternative Medicine from Georgetown University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Neuroscience from Washington University in St. Louis. Within the global health field, she is particularly drawn to working with adolescent populations who are at a unique stage of self-discovery and self-determination. Having grown up in Seattle, Lauren has observed societal and political shifts that have led to an increasingly vulnerable marginalized population of teens. She currently volunteers at the Country Doctor Free Teen clinic, which is an evening health clinic for homeless teens. It is this experience that has had a defining role in shaping Lauren’s career goals. She plans to continue working with vulnerable teens as a Nurse Practitioner, either in a school-based health clinic, Juvenile Detention or a primary care clinic with a specific focus on nutrition and stress-related health effects.

Face3Gladys Salgado is a MPA candidate in the Evans School of Public Policy. As a native of Colombia, South America, Gladys grew up in a large family who taught her valuable lessons on what it means to be rich without having money, the importance of family above all, and the difference between poverty and despair. After a long career in Information Technology, Gladys is embarking on a new career in public service. Following her move to Seattle, she became restless by the abundance of social ills surrounding her such as homelessness, obesity, and untreated mental health disorders, and has decided to put her skills and experience toward helping make systemic changes from within on a full-time basis. 

Manahil Siddiqi PhotoManahil Siddiqi is an MPH student in the Community-Oriented Public Health Practice program. Her primary interest is in global health, particularly health politics and health systems strengthening with a focus on women and children. Manahil graduated with distinction in her self-designed major in Global Health from Bryn Mawr College in 2015, where she was the recipient of several honors commending her public health achievements in Philadelphia, England, and Nicaragua. Prior to joining the University of Washington, Manahil conducted research on refugee mothering, resettlement and mental health among conflict-affected populations, including refugee families resettling in Philadelphia. The principles of social justice, human rights and collective action fuel Manahil’s scholarship and advocacy.