May 30, 2019

George Mason University Students Visit MCDI Project in Equatorial Guinea

Group of students who visited BIMEP offices
GMU students and Dr. von Fricken (left) outside the BIMEP project offices in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.

Through a Global Praxis grant from George Mason University (GMU), six students and one professor will be visiting project sites of MCDI's Bioko Island Malaria Elimination Project (BIMEP) from May 24 through June 2.

With Dr. Michael E. von Fricken, an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology in the Department of Global and Community Health at GMU, the students will learn more about the BIMEP's exciting work in vector control, and its integration with malaria vaccine trials in an effort to eliminate malaria from Bioko Island.

The Global Praxis grant awarded by GMU's Global Education Office promotes faculty and students alike to conduct research abroad allowing students a hands-on experience to further their careers. During their trip, the students will learn about BIMEP's field operations and will participate in lectures given by researchers and field experts. The students will learn about bed net distributions, indoor residual spraying, larviciding, using aspirators to calculate human landing rates, mosquito trapping and will observe the processes of the malaria vaccine trial. The students, guided by Dr. von Fricken, will also be collecting ticks for epidemiological research, which is the first scientifically documented tick collection in Equatorial Guinea.

We spoke to the students to learn more about why they wanted to conduct research in Equatorial Guinea through the Global Praxis program:

Rayza Rodrigo-Vargas
This is my senior year in Community Health at GMU. Community health has always been my passion. I would love to pursue a Master's degree in global health and focus on infectious diseases. I also have previous research experience. I worked as a research assistant for a nutrition program to reduce obesity among Latino children. Also, being bilingual in Spanish/English has been a great advantage to help communities that speak Spanish in the United States. Therefore, I decided to get accredited as a Spanish medical interpreter to provide better services to the communities. In addition, I work for Kaiser Permanente as a clinical assistant and enjoy my job. I decided to apply to the Global Praxis program to Equatorial Guinea because I want to explore the world and see how other communities prevent certain diseases.

Sophia Chavez
I am a senior with a majoring in community health. I selected the Praxis program to Equatorial Guinea because I am interested in learning about vector borne diseases and I also enjoy traveling.

Elizabeth Rush
I am a senior pursuing a BS in Environmental Science with a concentration in Environmental. My plan is focus on entomology and community ecology. I became interested in the Bioko Island Malaria Elimination Project because of its success in reducing malaria prevalence and surveillance of insecticide resistance.

Carmen Asbun
I am a recent graduate in the Master of Public Health (MPH) program in epidemiology at GMU. My passion for public health stemmed from my deployment to West Africa during the 2014 Ebola outbreak. I also taught overseas in several West African countries to develop safe, secure, and accurate work practices to run public health laboratories. I am also a visiting scientist at USAMRIID with Dr. von Fricken researching Rickettsia on human serum and ticks collected in Southern Mongolia. With my lab experience overseas and being a fluent Spanish speaker, I chose Equatorial Guinea to help the ongoing malaria prevention efforts, and to gain more field experience.

Amanda Burton
I am an MPH student with a background in Sociology, currently pursuing a degree in Epidemiology at GMU. My academic and work experiences center on the social determinants of health and include research on a variety of health topics. I recently became interested in zoonotic diseases and had an opportunity to intern in the Global Health Department of the Smithsonian National Zoo researching health issues at the human-wildlife interface. When I saw the research opportunity in Equatorial Guinea with Dr. Von Fricken, I knew it would be a great chance to develop my knowledge in this field while gaining first hand exposure to the social conditions that exacerbate disease prevalence in this region.

Allison Sedon
I am an MPH student with a concentration in epidemiology. I am very interested in researching infectious diseases and vector-borne diseases, and I hope to work with these diseases at the CDC in the future. My biggest career goal is to save the world! I chose the Global Praxis Equatorial Guinea trip to gain field research skills and to learn more about mosquito and malaria research.

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