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The Downs Fellowship

Harry Hyunteh Kim collects data from local residents regarding their WASH (water, sanitation, hygiene) behavior, and other relevant topics. He was accompanied by the two local townspeople, who served as translators.

The Downs International Health Student Travel Fellowship honors Wilbur G. Downs (1913 - 1991), MD, MPH, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health, renowned physician/scientist in the fields of tropical medicine and infectious diseases, mentor to many students and colleagues.

Since 1966, the Downs Fellowship has provided opportunities to over 500 students to live, learn, work and do research in low- and middle-income countries. Many projects have led to notable research discoveries, disseminated via presentations at national and international health conferences and publication in peer-reviewed journals. These projects have reflected a range of issues in global health, including epidemiology, genetics, and parasitology, as well as clinical and social patterns in health and medicine. Surveys show that past fellows have been deeply influenced by their experiences abroad, helping them to shape new perspectives on their responsibilities and capabilities as health professionals.

Research is carried out in the context of host countries’ culture, health problems and resources. Although students are expected to initiate projects, Yale faculty members provide intellectual support, practical assistance and links with host-country sponsors who serve as mentors during the Fellows time abroad. The development of research topic and methodological detail are joint responsibilities of applicants and advisors. Any member of the Yale faculty may sponsor applicants.

Frequently Asked Questions

The following is a general guideline and some of this information may not be applicable to the particulars of your application. The information generally follows the official policies of the Downs Fellowship Committee and will be amended as necessary. All applications will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Yale Student Grants and Fellowships Database: Online Application (will open in November)

For general information contact Anjuli Bodyk

Which students are eligible to apply for the Fellowship?

All Yale graduate students are eligible who propose to conduct health related research in low-to-middle-income countries (LMICs). This includes master’s and Ph.D. students in the health professional schools (Medicine, Nursing, Public Health, and PA program) and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Who administers the Wilbur Downs Fellowship?

The Downs Fellowship Committee includes representatives from the Schools of Nursing, Medicine and Public Health, the Physician Associate Program, as well as former Downs fellows.

Contact Anjuli Bodyk with questions or concerns.

What is the timeline for the Downs Fellowship application process?

Application Cycle: Final dates are listed on the Downs Fellowship Canvas site. To request access, please email with your Yale email address or NetID.

General Timeline:

  • Info sessions: Mid-September
  • Proposal writing workshops: Mid-October - Mid-November
  • Workshop Instructor draft outline review: Mid-November
  • Mentor match initial proposal deadline: Late January
  • Final applications due: Early March
  • Interviews: March
  • Decisions announced: One-week following interviews
What are the Proposal Writing Workshops?

Each year, 5 proposal writing workshops are sponsored by the Downs Committee. They are intended to provide students with a basic understanding of research methods (hypothesis statement, quantitative/qualitative study design, epidemiology, and biostatistics) and ethical principles that will enable them to write, organize, and perform a research study abroad. Although this workshop is not mandatory for applicants, attendance will be monitored and given positive consideration by the Down’s Committee. In addition, students who attend at least 3 of 5 or more of the workshops will be eligible for feedback from the instructor on their research proposal draft outlines.

These are recorded and available on the Downs Fellowship Canvas site for viewing. To gain access to the project site, please contact Anjuli Bodyk, Fellowship Administrator and provide your NetID.

What is the Initial Proposal Submission?

All applicants who submit their research proposals by the deadline will be matched with two Downs Committee members to serve as mentors. Working with assigned mentors provides applicants an opportunity to refine and strengthen their proposal in preparation for the final submission.

  • Downs Committee Mentor Match:
    The applicant will be notified of the two committee members with whom he/she were matched; the applicant must take the initiative to contact and schedule an appointment with them as soon as possible. The Downs Committee member will not serve as or replace faculty advisors. ONLY applications received by the deadline will be considered for mentor matching. The Committee urges the applicant to take advantage of this optional opportunity as the final application process is highly competitive.
When are final applications due?

All final applications must be submitted on the Student Grant & Fellowship Database by the deadline. Only final applications submitted through this database will be considered by the Downs Committee. In-person Interviews will then be scheduled and after the review process (1 week), successful applicants will be announced.

How do I identify a site or start making connections that will lead me to identifying a potential project?

This can happen in a variety of ways. For example, start with researching University global health resources, including but not limited to the Yale Institute for Global Health, Yale MacMillan Center, or individual departments of interest. Then you can focus on your particular interest, such as:

  • Geographic region
  • Area of interest (i.e., maternal and child health, infectious disease, health, and conflict, etc.)
  • Specific research methodology
  • Finally, do not underestimate the resourcefulness of your peers in helping you find a project. Talk to the Downs Fellowship program administrator, your classmates, and to past Downs Fellows for ideas of projects, organizations, and faculty members to meet.

After identifying some prospective faculty members of interest, contact them to further discuss their current research projects and if they would be able to serve as your faculty advisor or if they can connect you with others in the same field. You can also schedule an individual consultation with Fellowship Administrator, Anjuli Bodyk.

Yale Institute for Global Health: A listing of affiliated faculty with faculty profile can be sorted by international activity or topic area.

Yale MacMillan Center

Who can/should be my Yale advisor?

Each applicant is required to have a Yale project advisor and on-site host institution preceptor. An advisor can be any Yale faculty member with an interest in your study. This person need not have an appointment in your matriculated school or program. It is important that applicants show they have strong institutional support at Yale and in their host country. Typically, your Yale project advisor will have an existing relationship with the host institution and can connect you with a host preceptor.

Am I supposed to work on my own or with an organization?
You are expected to design your own project but conduct your research under the supervision of or in collaboration with an in-country institution as well as your Yale faculty project advisor.
What subjects of study are acceptable for the Downs Fellowship?

The Committee is interested in all types of studies related to biomedical sciences in resource-poor countries and/or with marginalized populations. The scientific and ethical rigor of the study, rather than a particular methodology or topic, is the main concern of the Committee.

Where can I conduct my study?

Beyond scientific research experience, the Downs Fellowship aims to provide students with a novel cultural experience. Therefore, students are STRONGLY encouraged to consider sites/countries for their study in which they have not spent significant time before.

Nevertheless, the Committee will consider all applications on a case-by-case basis. If the applicant decides on a project that returns him/her to a familiar site/country (family, previous research, etc.) strong arguments must be presented as to how this will represent a significantly novel cultural experience.

Applicants may propose a U.S.-based project; this project must be focused on low-resource, marginalized, or under-served populations. In keeping with the spirit of the Downs Fellowship, applicants shall propose work in a community that is new to them, in a culture with which they have not had previous experience. Applicants must provide a strong rationale to support this aspect of their proposal and identify means of immersing themselves in the culture and community (e.g.., living accommodations similar to a majority of the population/community members).

In addition, some Yale Schools have specific travel restriction policies for certain countries. Contact the Dean of Students (or other appropriate administrative contact) at your School for more specifics.

How long does my Downs project have to be?

Projects are expected to be a minimum of 10 weeks. Most projects are greater in length and approximately 12-16 weeks.

Is it necessary that I choose a country that speaks a language in which I am fluent? If not, how can I prepare for the problem of language barriers?

The Committee acknowledges the importance of language in terms of the quality of the research and cultural experience of Downs-supported projects. Although fluency in a particular language is not a requirement of the Fellowship, the Committee will assess whether the applicant’s language competency is sufficient to conduct the proposed research adequately and still take full advantage of the cultural experience.

If the applicant’s language skills are deficient, the Downs Committee will expect the applicant to have a plan to address this during his/her preparation for and execution of the research (such as engaging a language tutor prior to departing or hiring Research Assistants and/or interpreters and translator on site). Applicants should avail themselves of Yale’s renowned linguistic resources via the Center for Language Study.

What expenses are covered by the Downs Fellowship and how are these disbursed?

The award provides round trip airfare and ground transportation to overseas project sites, cost of visa (if applicable) and cost of pre-departure medical expenses and prescribed vaccinations/medications. Each award recipient will also receive a one-time financial award in the amount of $4000 before leaving.

Will the research conducted through the Downs fellowship satisfy thesis requirements?

Completing a thesis using your Downs research is not a requirement of the Downs Fellowship, but fellows very often develop theses based on their Downs projects. They are encouraged to develop and submit manuscripts to peer-reviewed journals where they are listed as first author. Partial financial support for publication costs or conference attendance will also be available upon request.

Is it required that my project be concluded at the end of my time in-country?

The Committee expects applicants to develop research plans that are feasible in the funded research period. The expectation is that students finish their data collection while in-country, and subsequently work on data analysis and writing the appropriate documentation upon their return. Applicants should be prepared to address delays and unforeseen circumstances by establishing systems for data collection that may have to continue after they depart the country or research area.

What letters of support are required?

The final application must be accompanied with two letters of support: one from the Yale Faculty advisor and the other from the host country sponsor. Ideally, the sponsor letter should include:

  • Statement that they and their institution / agency agree to be a collaborator
  • Length of your project
  • Your main responsibilities
  • Relevance of your research and its significance to their ongoing work
  • Any relevant local resources (equipment, library, etc.) for your project
What is the purpose of the in-person interviews?

The in-person interview is a part of the overall evaluations of your application; it gives the Committee members an opportunity to meet you in person and to assess your ability to respond to their questions and concerns about your study.

Each interview will be attended by a quorum of Downs Committee members, which includes Faculty and Downs Fellow alumni representing the health professional schools. The applicant is expected to give an oral presentation (no PowerPoint) up to 5 minutes in length. A 10-minute Q&A session afterwards will allow committee members to clarify any questions or concerns on any aspect of the proposal, personal and research preparation, and the potential for cultural experience.

What criteria does the Committee use to judge applicants?

Each applicant will be evaluated with attention to each of the following characteristics:

  • research innovation
  • independence
  • design and analysis
  • feasibility
  • anticipated cultural experience,
  • applicant skill set/capability/professionalism
  • advisory support quality

What are the responsibilities of becoming a Downs Fellow?


  • Knowing the guidelines for conducting ethical research
  • Thoroughly prepare for your travel abroad
  • To attend the New Fellow Induction Celebration (spring)
  • To conduct a study that upholds the highest scientific and ethical standards
  • To adhere to the Fellowship rules and instructions as communicated by the Chair(s) of the Downs Fellowship Committee
  • To participate in International Pre-Departure Preparation workshops prior to departure. (Date and time of scheduled sessions will be announced)
  • To attend a welcome-back social with Fellows and Committee members
  • To submit a preliminary research report of your project
  • To present your project results at the annual Downs Fellowship event in the fall. (Each Fellow is required to present a research poster or give an oral presentation, with associated costs to be covered directly by Downs Fellowship).
  • To be willing to serve as a resource for fellow students in applying for Downs Fellowship


  • To participate in new applicant events such as Downs Fellowship information sessions, project preparation panels, or pre-departure panels.
  • To apply to be a student representative on the Downs Fellowship Committee for two academic semesters. Roles and responsibilities will be shared during application period.

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As a recipient of two Yale School of Public Health fellowships, Matthew Benczkowski was able to conduct epidemiological research in Colombia to enhance his education in global health.

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