Elena Horwitz with a friend in Tanzania
Photo Credit
Courtesy of Elana Horwitz

A Global Opportunity for Third-Year Medical Students

A faculty-funded fellowship enables students to perform field research all over the world

Elana Horwitz might be the ideal student to become the first recipient of a fellowship founded by the interim director of the Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI). When Dennis Clements M.D. and his wife Martha Ann Keels DDS created their award for third-year medical students to go abroad for research, they likely had a student like Horwitz in mind.

Horwitz, a Chapel Hill native and daughter of a Duke oncologist, has been globally minded for quite a while. While she was an undergraduate, she studied abroad in Chile. After graduation, she worked two years for Operation Smile, an international charity organization that performs cleft palate surgeries for children. That job allowed her to travel all over Latin America, including four trips to Nicaragua, where she will return in 2020-21 to perform research on her fellowship.

“I’m excited to be going back to Nicaragua again,” Horwitz says. “I’ll be working in a teaching hospital with a Nicaraguan doctor and Ph.D. on their infectious disease study. My mentor is a Duke doctor who collaborates with them from Durham.”

The work on dengue and Zika, two difficult mosquito-borne tropical diseases, will allow her time to decide on her specialty when she returns for her fourth year of medical school. Horwitz is considering OB/GYN and psychiatry, both specialties with a lot of need in Latin America.

Clements and Keels have special knowledge of Latin America, having worked and volunteered in Honduras for decades. Clements teaches a med school course, “Exploring Medicine in Foreign Cultures,” which culminates in a 10-day trip to the country. He has been involved with DGHI since the institute was being planned in 2006.

“I’ve always loved doing medicine as a way to find out about people — how people live and who they are,” Clements says. “I came to appreciate that people were the same all over the world except for the fact that they were born in a different place.”

Elena Horwitz with colleagues in Nicaragua
Elana Horwitz (back center) with Operation smile colleagues in Guadalajara, Mexico