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Yale Institute for Global Health announces winter 2023 Spark Awards

January 18, 2023
by Colin Poitras

Four Yale faculty conducting international research in such diverse areas as stroke, trauma, suicide, and interventional radiology have been named recipients of the Yale Institute for Global Health’s winter 2023 Spark Awards.

The Spark Award is intended to serve as seed funding for innovative research initiatives that could be supported by larger grants or for catalyzing a sustainable scope of work that contributes to the career development of YIGH-affiliated faculty.

Each recipient receives up to $10,000. Winning proposals were selected based on five criteria: innovation, feasibility, sustainability, anticipated outcomes, and alignment with YIGH’s mission to improve the health of individuals and populations worldwide.

Here is a summary of the winter 2023 Spark Award projects and their sponsors:

Sarah Lowe, PhD: Associate Professor of Public Health (Social and Behavioral Sciences); Associate Professor of Psychiatry; and Associate Clinical Professor of Nursing.

Project summary: Rwanda has experienced a profound shift in its care for orphaned children since the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. There has been a more than two-fold increase in residential care facilities for children since the genocide. A national program called Tumarere Mu Muryango (Let’s raise children in families) or TMM seeks to close large-scale residential facilities and reunite children with their families if appropriate. The Spark Award will help researchers conduct a representative study of children and caregivers served by TMM to assess their lifetime trauma histories, mental health, and psychosocial resources. A larger goal is to develop and implement culturally relevant trauma-informed interventions to address this population’s unmet mental health needs.

Dr. Sharon Chekijian, MD ’01, MPH: Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine; Medical Director, Patient Experience, Emergency Medicine; Medical Director, Yale New Haven Hospital PA/NP Residency Program; Faculty Member, Division of Global Health and International Emergency Medicine.

Project summary: Stroke is the sixth leading cause of death in Armenia. The incidence of stroke in Armenia has doubled over the past four decades. Yet pre-hospital emergency care for stroke remains a serious concern due to inadequate physician training, poor public education about stroke, and lack of clear guidelines for emergency transport. The Spark Award will allow researchers to collect and analyze the quality of pre-hospital stroke care in Armenia with a goal of improving existing data collection and infrastructure to improve care. In addition, the funding will help provide additional training for physicians and allow for a survey general public knowledge about stroke risk factors, symptoms, and emergencies.

Ashley Hagaman, PhD, MPH: Assistant Professor of Public Health (Social and Behavioral Sciences).

Project summary: Suicide is a leading cause of global mortality. Close to 800,000 people die each year due to suicide, with 75% of the world’s suicides occurring in low- and middle-income countries. South Asia has the highest suicide rate of all the world’s regions. This proposal will co-design approaches for suicide screening and referral in peri-rural Pakistan, where suicide is highly stigmatized and illegal, but where Hagaman’s research team has successfully worked to improve mental health services for disadvantaged populations. The Spark Award will provide the resources needed to achieve the study’s aims of (1) developing a workflow map to establish concrete steps that community health workers will take when they detect a positive case of potential suicide and (2) validating the psychometric properties of two screening tools – the Ask Suicide Questionnaire and the Patient Safety Screener - in community health care settings in peri-rural Pakistan.

Dr. Fabian M. Laage Gaupp, MD: Assistant Professor of Vascular and Interventional Radiology.

Project Summary: Uganda currently has no formally trained interventional radiologists and no local training opportunities. This leaves a population of 45 million people without access to a wide range of essential and lifesaving minimally invasive treatment options. Interventional radiology offers a safe and effective minimally invasive treatment option for postpartum hemorrhage by embolization of the uterine arteries and can help lower perinatal maternal mortality rates, which are up to 100 times higher in Uganda when compared to high-income countries. The Spark Award will allow project leaders to (1) establish interventional radiology training in Uganda within two years; (2) initiate an interventional radiology service in Uganda to address immediate procedural needs including uterine artery embolization for women with postpartum hemorrhage; and 3) develop a prospective patient registry to evaluate the impact of uterine artery embolization on survival in a resource-limited setting. More details can be found on the group's website.

Submitted by Colin Poitras on January 18, 2023