Hannah Connolly ’16, a medical student at SUNY Upstate, assisted staff at the Family AIDS Care and Education Services clinic in Kenya, working on the perinatal mortality project— an international effort to study and address the country’s high infant death rate.
“I made it my priority to find a project that combined my passion for social science with clinical medicine,” says Connolly, who is in her second year at the Syracuse medical school. “Based on the narratives of women who experienced a perinatal mortality, which we collected through interviews, we are partnering with Kenyan public health officials to design interventions that address barriers to healthcare that many Kenyan women face.”
“Estimations suggest that the perinatal mortality rate in Kenya is 29 out of 1,000 births,” says Connolly, who traveled to Kenya through the Student Training Education Program at the University of California, San Francisco last summer. “However, there is an incredible need to strengthen tracking systems, as many women who experience stillbirths or lose their newborns within the first week of life do so at home, and there is no means for reporting, unless clinical care was sought.”
While at HWS, Connolly designed her own major, Health Disparities, to accompany her biology major. She was captain of the William Smith lacrosse team, an Office of Admissions tour guide and a 2019 Orientation Coordinator. Connolly was admitted to SUNY Upstate through the Early Assurance Program, a partnership that allows HWS students to apply to the university during their sophomore year.
Connolly says the bi-disciplinary course at HWS, “The Politics of Reproduction” taught by Associate Professor of Sociology Renee Monson and Associate Professor of Biology Kristy Kenyon, had a significant impact on her choice to study global health. After taking the course, Connolly says she made a commitment to seeking out opportunities that would allow her to conduct healthcare research through a sociological lens.
“This opportunity has been the perfect introduction to a career in global health, a field that cannot practice medicine without investigating and understanding the social circumstances of your patients and the state of the healthcare system, in general,” says Connolly. “Better yet, watching the herons fly over Lake Victoria brought me back to the shores of Seneca Lake every night.”
Connolly intends to return to Kenya after her third year of medical school to delve back into the findings and scale up the project.