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UNICEF Work Rewarding For YSPH Alumna

Yale Public Health Magazine, Focus: Spring 2022
by Devina Buckshee


Mahrukh Zahid’s love of her work as a consultant for UNICEF’s Early Childhood Development Section is readily apparent in the tenderness of her voice as she describes her role.

“There’s something about knowing you are reaching children at an early age that is just so impactful,” said Zahid, M.P.H. ’20.

What started as a broad interest in implementation science and “moms and babies” blossomed for Zahid when she was at Yale. “I was known as the implementation science girl,” she said. And indeed, she did create the Yale School of Public Health’s first implementation science group.

“At YSPH, I saw the impact of my passion through the opportunities I had,” she said, “like working with Dr. Ashley Hagaman on her project assessing maternal health services for women living in Afar, Ethiopia.”

Zahid lists working with Assistant Professor Hagaman, Ph.D., M.P.H., and hearing the stories of pregnant women from Ethiopia as some of the most meaningful memories of her time at YSPH. “Listening to the women, I knew that was what I wanted to do: either help the ones who had a bad experience or contribute to the ones that had a good one,” she said.

The connections she made at YSPH shaped her career. She fondly remembers attending a child health and development in Africa class led by Yale Senior Visiting Scholar and Lecturer Nicholas Alipui. The class honed her interest in global early childhood development. Zahid also found connections working within YSPH’s maternal and child health community. She said she was inspired working with Rafael Pérez-Escamilla, Ph.D., and Elizabeth Rhodes, Ph.D., on the Breastfeeding Heritage and Pride project that combined her two passions: implementation science and maternal health.

There’s something about knowing you are reaching children at an early age that is just so impactful.

Mahrukh Zahid

Zahid credits Alipui with helping her land her current role at UNICEF, where he is a former director of programs. “Dr. Alipui’s class really instilled within me the importance of those first 1,000 days for child health,” she said. “That class was so essential.”

During COVID-19, Zahid immersed herself in a systematic review and data project looking at virus transmission during pregnancy.

Looking back, Zahid said her time at UNICEF and her project with Hagaman have “made me more passionate about maternal and child health.”

“I love what I do but I want to always have the hat of an implementation science expert,” she said. “My dream is to help implement evidence-based programs, and if I am doing that 10–20 years from now, I will be happy.”

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