UAlbany School of Public Health Alum and CDC Global Surveillance Fellow works to control HIV in Ivory Coast, West Africa

Ms. Leukou Nzoutchoum in the field with colleagues from the CDC and the Ministry of Health in Abidjan.
It is a long distance from the classrooms at UAlbany School of Public Health to Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

 

Ornella Leukou Nzoutchoum, MPH ‘2016 is in Abidjan as an Allan Rosenfield Global Surveillance Fellow working on the Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (PHIA) project. Her fellowship is offered by the Association of Schools & Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

The PHIA is a multi-country initiative led by ICAP (at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health) and partner organizations. The initiative is designed to measure the reach and impact of HIV programs in PEPFAR-supported countries to help guide policy and funding priorities.

Leukou Nzoutchoum’s study abroad experience while pursuing her MPH helped clarify her career goals and her plans to work in global health.
In Ivory Coast, Ornella has assisted with the development of the study protocol and training materials, reviewed relevant documents for ethical integrity, and helped trained laboratory technicians, interviewers and nurses on the procedures for field data collection.

 

Leukou Nzoutchoum is familiar with traveling far. She came to UAlbany School of Public Health after graduating from Whitman College, a liberal arts college in Walla Walla, WA, with a global perspective. Whitman states that “every Whitman student has the opportunity to become a global citizen.” She continued to expand her global perspective through selected global health studies courses as a Master of Public Health (MPH) student and participation in the UAlbany School of Public Health’s annual “Comparative Health System Exchange Program” trip to Costa Rica hosted by the University of Costa Rica School of Public Health.

Earlier in her life, as a 14-year old, she moved from Cameroon, her country of birth, to California. Now, as a Global Surveillance Fellow, she has had the satisfaction of helping Cameroon: She traveled there to provide technical assistance to the PHIA team during the training phase and supervise the start of data collection efforts.

Ornella shares that the engagement and dedication of stakeholders in Ivory Coast, particularly the Ministry of Health (MOH) has amazed her. Back in January, the country experienced a mutiny and government staff were on strike. For the PHIA project, this was a bad timing since they were planning a major training activity. A meeting they had scheduled was expected to have low attendance given the conditions. To her surprise, even though they were on strike, a great representation from the MOH showed up and actively participated in the meeting.

“This experience has given me a more realistic view of all the groundwork involved prior to generating health surveillance data, which has transformed the way I look at data. When I read that the HIV prevalence rate for Ivory Coast is 3.7%, I am more appreciative of those statistics as I now understand the amount of collaboration, dedication, and coordination that went into generating that data point.”