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2023 IHY Summer Internship Funding Recipients

Jennifer Ye

Organization: Cirqle Biomedical

In partnership with Cirqle Biomedical, based in Copenhagen, Denmark, Jennifer Ye worked to generate video demonstrations about the new non-hormonal birth control method that can impact reproductive health and healthcare access around the world.

“I would like to graciously thank the generous donors for providing me with the opportunity to learn so much about myself, personally and professionally. This was the first time I critically though about my career and made hard decisions, and it was all inspired by being in a new and stimulating environment. I worked at Cirqle Biomedical, a start-up in Copenhagen, Denmark researching to develop a novel approach to birth control, aiming to reinforce the natural cervical mucus barrier to provide effective birth control on demand without any hormones. I worked on demonstrating levels of cytotoxicity of the company’s contraceptive formulation with regards to bacteria in the vaginal microbiome. In developing this contraceptive, it is vital that the introduction of their certain molecule into the reproductive system does not harm local species, such as the Lactobacillus species that dominate the vaginal microbiome. The molecule is primarily dissolved in lactic acid, which initial experimentations have shown provides a suboptimal environment for Lactobacillus species growth. However, those experiments were conducted with laboratory strains, so I was interested in investigating the interactions between lactic acid and vaginal microbiome (clinical) samples. Over the summer, I examined the interactions between the molecule and the Lactobacillus bacteria isolated from vaginal microbiome samples, through short-term and long-term exposure and bacterial viability assays, to test the toxicity of the company’s formulation towards Lactobacillus from the vaginal microbiome. Professionally, I learned much more about research in startup environments and overall about startup cultures. Over the course of the summer, I came to many new conclusions about what I want to do in the future. In particular, I definitely reaffirmed my interest in womens’ health and reproductive technology and I hope to forever maintain a passion for it.”

2022 IHY Summer Internship Funding Recipients

Siraj Patwa

Siraj Patwa

Organization: Khushi Baby

In partnership with Khushi Baby, an NGO based in Rajasthan that develops digital health solutions to support the Rajasthan community health infrastructure, Siraj conducted interviews with several government health officials as well as community health workers to better understand the challenges with the current health data processes.

“The public health system in Rajasthan is siloed with different health programs representing non- intersecting verticals. In order to adequately collect health data for over 10 health programs, health workers are burdened with extensive paper records that are susceptible to errors, inadequate data quality, and environmental barriers in the harsh Indian climate. The main goal of the study was to describe these data collection formats and map how the data moves upward from the community level to the state government. At present, there are no studies that describe this system, yet the review would be greatly beneficial in identifying and addressing gaps in the public health system. With the support of InnovateHealth Yale, I was able to effectively conduct a comprehensive survey of the data systems within 10 health programs utilizing input from government officials and community health workers alike. The qualitative data collected in this study was obtained through semi-structured qualitative interviews in the Rajasthan Health Department (Jaipur) as well as in several villages within the Udaipur District.

Overall, we found that the current data processes are plagued by an over reliance on paper-based records amidst demand for greater mobile- and web-based data collection methods. Furthermore, we discovered disparities between answers from government officials and health workers about different data collection formats, suggesting that many forms often go unused in favor of more simplified data collection methods by the health workers. We also observed a lack of data accountability mechanisms within the current system, thus making it easier for data to be incorrect or forged, which greatly affects public health targets set by the government, such as population-based target metrics. In addition to highlighting and categorizing challenges, we created visual and tabular maps that describe the type of data collected, frequency and timing of data collection and review, data format (paper/digital), and how data analysis and feedback occurs at the state government level. In assessing these “maps”, it was clear that the system is overly complicated and in need of a digital overhaul, which is currently in process for several programs. Despite this effort, issues with digital literacy, internet connectivity, and routine work practices and work burden threaten the success of such digital health data systems. The resource we are developing, which effectively summarizes challenges and data processes, will serve as a strong foundation for innovation within the system, not just by Khushi Baby, but anyone who hopes to create digital solutions that address the issues at present.

As a Global Health Scholar at Yale, this experience was instrumental in bridging my public health curriculum and understanding of real-world implementation. In the future, I hope to combine my passions for public health and medicine to continue to address barriers to healthcare. Not only did I gain exposure to public health, but I also grew as a global citizen this summer, interacting with people from a wide range of backgrounds with limited language capacity. This absolutely strengthened my problem solving and communication abilities as well as my love for traveling and learning about cultures that differ from my own. I hope to use this summer as a spring board to approach public health issues in global contexts.

Thank you very much for supporting this research!”

Anika Seth

Anika Seth

Organization: Cirqle Biomedical

Anika Seth spent the summer at Cirqle Biomedical, a fem-tech startup firm based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Cirqle aims to create a first-in-class form of female contraception that is safer, more comfortable and more reliable than current market options.

“Since “the pill” was first introduced about 60 years ago, it has become an industry standard for female-labeled contraception. But present forms of female-labeled birth control, oriented toward people with vaginas, employ a systemic hormonal approach that is tied to dramatic health consequences, especially mental illness and suicidality. In Denmark, studies have shown that hormonal contraceptives heighten risk of depression by 80 percent. Current non-hormonal alternatives, too, come with stark side effects: at least 63 percent of women in the United States who are using non-hormonal options like copper intrauterine devices – or IUDs – experience massive menstrual cramps three to six months after insertion. Around the five-year mark, 44 percent of consumers discontinue using IUDs.

At Cirqle, we aim to fill this unmet need. As a Research & Development intern this summer, I had the distinct opportunity to manage large data sets for a company evaluated at $300 million – I worked to devise a more streamlined way of plotting and analysing the data, and to develop an integrated visualization platform that allows for interactive and customized plots through a web-based Python application. Now, I’m so honored to work for the company as a Junior Research & Development Scientist on a part-time contracting basis – all thanks to your funding support.

As a double major in Biomedical Engineering and Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies, my experiences over the summer further affirmed my commitment to the intersection of engineering technology and social health disparities, and I’m excited to apply knowledge from the remaining duration of my Yale experience to this nexus going forward! Thank you, genuinely, for your support!”

Yushi Zhang

Yushi Zhang

Organization: MixDesign

Yushi Zhang is a second-year MPH student at Yale School of Public Health studying Social and Behavioral Sciences, with concentrations in Global Health and Maternal & Child Health Promotion.

“Over the summer, I had the opportunity to intern with MixDesign, an architecture firm based in New York City, with Professor Joel Sanders from Yale School of Architecture to explore Autism-friendly space designs. Your kind support enabled this opportunity for me. Your generosity goes out to people on the Autism spectrum so they can have an easier life moving through public and private spaces.

Going into this internship, I had one goal: to learn the principles of designing for people on the autism spectrum and explore the science and design to create private and public spaces that are more sensory-friendly, supportive, and safer for people on the Autism spectrum. This summer internship project was designed for me, and it was part 1 of a three-module interdepartmental collaboration between Yale School of Architecture and Yale School of Public Health dedicated to exploring the built environment’s role in promoting social and environmental justice and mental and physical health. We were trying to find innovative solutions to make spaces more inclusive and accessible for everybody. During the 10 short weeks this past summer, I partnered with Columbus House, a homeless shelter in New Haven and Gray Organischi Architecture, to investigate and understand the needs of different homeless populations to move through shelter spaces, including gender, age, ability, and familial status groups. We unbundled the attributes of these groups to explore their difficulties and challenges using, living, and exiting the spaces. Due to confidential reasons, I won’t be sharing our final report here, but the homeless populations have taught me a lot, to say the least. I also worked on the MIT Campus Inclusive Restroom Study as well as the inclusive design transformation at Queens Museum, New York. Recently, I was interviewed by Scientific American on Autistic experience in office spaces.

Because of my summer internship, my master’s thesis will focus on women on the Autism spectrum and their interaction with healthcare systems: interpersonal and interspacial relationships. I’m also currently partnering with Tsai CITY at Yale to build a new venture using the Autism-friendly design principles I’ve learned over the summer. I hope to bring these experiences and knowledge to build Autism-friendly women’s shelters in China one day when resources and opportunities are present.

These efforts will hopefully someday become something tangible, valuable, and impactful to our society.

Thank you for your unwavering commitment to supporting students like me who are devoted to health innovation at Yale!”