Humphrey Fellows travel to VCU in search of solutions to public health challenges

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Twelve scholars from around the globe recently arrived at Virginia Commonwealth University to spend a year working to solve challenging public health issues, such as substance abuse, HIV and AIDS, women’s health, post-traumatic stress disorder, mental health and more.

The visitors are participating in the VCU Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program, which is part of an international exchange program sponsored by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and located in the Department of Psychology in VCU’s College of Humanities and Sciences. VCU is one of 16 universities across the country that serves as a Humphrey campus.

“Our past fellows have been very successful in implementing projects that they designed while they were at VCU, often in collaboration with VCU faculty,” said program coordinator and psychology professor J. Randy Koch, Ph.D. “The program provides an opportunity not only for the fellows to enhance their professional skills, but also to learn about U.S. culture.”

The program provides an opportunity not only for the fellows to enhance their professional skills, but also to learn about U.S. culture.

The program is a life-changing opportunity for many of fellows, Koch said, and many of them use what they learn during their fellowship to advance into positions of greater leadership in their home countries.

“The Humphrey Fellowship Program not only provides an opportunity for the fellows to enhance their professional development, but they also share their knowledge, skills and unique perspectives with VCU students and faculty,” he said. “In addition to the program’s focus on professional development, it provides the fellows with an opportunity to learn about U.S. culture and, just as importantly, it provides VCU students and faculty with an opportunity to learn about their cultures.”

The fellows in this year’s class come from 11 countries — Pakistan, Mexico, Peru, Togo, South Africa, Slovakia, Turkey, Sierra Leone, Egypt, Uganda and Bosnia-Herzegovina — and have a wide variety of areas of expertise.

From left to right: Lenka Juríèeková from Slovakia; Anthony Coetzer-Liversage from South Africa; Jessica Beltran, M.D., from Peru; Mariana Azcárraga, M.D., from Mexico; Nataša Tomic, M.D., from Bosnia-Herzegovina; Ýlker Kayý, M.D., from Turkey; Asia Ashraf from Pakistan; Mawouena K. Bohm from Togo; Rogers Mutaawe from Uganda; Mohamed Abdelghani Moustafa from Egypt; Usman Shamim from Pakistan; and Joseph Lahai from Sierra Leone.
From left to right: Lenka Juríèeková from Slovakia; Anthony Coetzer-Liversage from South Africa; Jessica Beltran, M.D., from Peru; Mariana Azcárraga, M.D., from Mexico; Nataša Tomic, M.D., from Bosnia-Herzegovina; Ýlker Kayý, M.D., from Turkey; Asia Ashraf from Pakistan; Mawouena K. Bohm from Togo; Rogers Mutaawe from Uganda; Mohamed Abdelghani Moustafa from Egypt; Usman Shamim from Pakistan; and Joseph Lahai from Sierra Leone.

The 2015-16 Humphrey Fellows at VCU:

Asia Ashraf
Ashraf, from Islamabad, Pakistan, earned a bachelor’s degree in applied psychology, chemistry and zoology in 2001 and a master’s degree in applied psychology in 2003, both from Punjab University. She also holds diplomas in human resource management from the Skills Development Council in Islamabad and in speech and language therapy from the National Institute for Rehabilitative Medicines in Islamabad. She started her career as a volunteer psychologist with Sunny Trust International, Addiction Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre in Islamabad in 2003, and rose to become its director of rehabilitation and head of the psychology department. Her responsibilities include management, program implementation and monitoring, and supervision of a range of tasks related to the treatment and rehabilitation of persons with substance use disorders. She has undertaken numerous professional trainings and is a national trainer for the Colombo Plan Drug Advisory Program. During her fellowship, Ashraf will seek to increase her knowledge of addiction treatment, rehabilitation and prevention services, and to learn new counseling techniques. In particular, she hopes to learn more about effective services for children, adolescents, women and people involved in the criminal justice system. Ashraf also wants to improve her research, project management and writing skills.

Mariana Azcárraga, M.D.
Azcárraga, from Mexico City, earned her medical degree from the National Autonomous University of Mexico in 2012, and she is currently finishing a psychiatry residency at the National Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery in Mexico City. As a resident, she provides a full range of psychiatric services to patients with mental health and substance use disorders, including cognitive behavioral therapy. Azcárraga also teaches medical students and has research experience in biological psychiatry. She is a member of the Experimental Psychiatry Laboratory, which employs neuroimaging and neurophysiological methods for studying the basis of disease in the brain. For her fellowship, Azcárraga seeks primarily to expand her knowledge in the origins, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of addiction. She also wants to learn more about epidemiology and drug policy to help address drug abuse problems in vulnerable populations such as adolescents, pregnant women and people with psychiatric illnesses. In addition, Azcárraga hopes to become involved in drug abuse research and to form partnerships with organizations and drug abuse experts in the U.S.

Jessica Beltran, M.D.
Beltran, from Lima, Peru, obtained her medical degree from the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in 2007 and a master’s degree in epidemiological research from Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in 2013. She also received advanced training at the University of Amsterdam in international drug policy. Beltran is a researcher at the Peruvian National Institute of Health, conducting primary and secondary public health research. Her expertise includes qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods studies and rapid, systematic literature reviews. She and her colleagues provide information for government stakeholders to help them make evidence-based public health decisions for Peru. Beltran has been collaborating in the introduction of screening, brief interventions and referral to treatment in Peruvian health care settings, specifically with vulnerable populations such as people living with HIV/AIDS and female sex workers. Her work was recently presented at the College on Problems of Drug Dependence annual meeting. During her fellowship, Beltran would like to improve her research skills so that she can conduct studies that would create a better understanding of substance abuse problems, and ultimately inform the development of more effective prevention and treatment policies and programs.

Mawouena K. Bohm
Bohm, from Togo, is a clinical psychologist who obtained his master’s degree at the Institute of Educational Sciences in Université de Lome in 2009. Bohm serves as deputy coordinator of the Togo National Anti-Drug Committee, where he has been in charge of substance abuse prevention, treatment and training since 2012. Bohm is involved in the development and implementation of Togo’s national policy against drug abuse. As a trainer for the TreatNet Program of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Bohm trains psychologists, physicians, social workers and other professionals on motivational interviewing and relapse prevention. He also trains teachers, community leaders and parents on how to help their children and family members deal with substance abuse problems. In addition, Bohm works with nongovernmental organizations on drug demand reduction, by providing technical support and advice on how to improve their interventions. During his fellowship, Bohm plans to enhance his knowledge of evidence-based prevention and treatment programs for youth so that he can implement these programs when he returns home. He also hopes to learn more about drug policy so that he can work with decision-makers in Togo to develop more effective drug control strategies.

Anthony Coetzer-Liversage
Coetzer-Liversage, from Cape Town, South Africa, obtained an honors degree in psychology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2006, a master’s degree in clinical pastoral care and counseling in 2013 from Stellenbosch University, and a postgraduate diploma in addiction care in 2014, also from Stellenbosch University. Coetzer-Liversage is currently the chairperson of a nonprofit organization, Inner Peace, which provides substance abuse prevention and treatment services, with a special focus on minority groups. He is also involved in other nonprofit organizations where his work focuses on helping these organizations to improve the professionalization of addiction service providers in South Africa and beyond. He is experienced in workplace interventions addressing various health issues, but especially substance use. During his fellowship, he will focus on developing the skills and knowledge he needs to establish centers of excellence that address substance use prevention, treatment, education, research, policy and advocacy in a coordinated fashion. He wants to continue his efforts to develop curricula to train substance abuse professionals and to improve his skills in grant writing, project management and human resource management.

Lenka Juríèeková
Juríèeková, from Handlová, Slovakia, obtained her master’s degree at Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia, in special education, with a particular focus on counseling of people with disabilities. She also graduated from Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic, with degrees in psychology and journalism. In 2011, she established and led a nongovernmental organization titled Four-leaf, which supports families with children who have developmental disabilities. Juríèeková also worked as a psychosocial field worker on a crisis intervention team during which time she started focusing on work with children exposed to traumatic events such as serious accidents and the death of a friend or family member. In 2013, she was nominated for a Slovak journalism prize for articles she wrote about children who survived the Holocaust in World War II. During her fellowship, Juríèeková seeks to enhance her ability to work with and support children who have experienced traumatic events. She hopes that with the additional knowledge and skills she develops, she will be better able to help these children strengthen their coping abilities and prevent the development of post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use disorders, a common symptom of PTSD.

Ýlker Kayý, M.D.
Kayý, from Istanbul, Turkey, graduated from Istanbul University Faculty of Medicine in 2005, and after working as a practitioner for two years he enrolled in specialty training in public health at the same university. Kayi has worked for the Turkish Ministry of Health and he was the chief of the primary health care unit in a Syrian Refugee Camp in the Adýyaman Province for one year. He also has played an active role in carrying out the health education modules for the Health Promotion Project for seasonal migrant agricultural workers and their families. Currently, Kayi is working in Koç University School of Medicine, and his main interests are health policy, health administration, health promotion, health education, global health, social determinants of health, community mental health and epidemiology. Throughout his fellowship year, Kayý intends to focus on the role of collaboration in health policy and health administration by evaluating the mental health and tobacco control policies of Turkey. Kayý would like to improve his skills in qualitative research methods in order to conduct studies that identify the personal and institutional barriers for collaboration in policymaking and implementation.

Joseph Lahai
Lahai, from Freetown, Sierra Leone, received his bachelor’s degree in agriculture in 1991. He joined the Sierra Leone Police Force in 1997, working in criminal investigation, transnational organized crime, and narcotics. In 2004, he was appointed as officer in charge of the Anti-Drugs Unit, with the responsibility of investigating all drug-related crimes. To increase his skills in crime scene investigation and drug analysis, Lahai completed his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy in 2009. In 2010, he went to Sudan as a peacekeeper under the United Nations African Mission in Darfur, where he was ultimately appointed as officer in charge of the Joint Operations Center at the mission’s headquarters. Lahai completed his mission with the U.N. in 2012 and rejoined the Sierra Leone Police Force, rising to the rank of superintendent in charge of the Scientific Support Unit. His responsibilities include scientific analyses, administration and collaboration with the country’s forensic pathologist and other government agencies. Lahai would like to increase his skills in forensic toxicology, particularly in the areas of drug and fingerprint analysis, with the ultimate goal of expanding training opportunities for other law enforcement professionals in his country. He also seeks to learn more about what he can do to improve drug abuse control.

Mohamed Abdelghani Moustafa, M.D.
Abdelghani, from Zagazig, Egypt, obtained his bachelor’s degree in medicine and surgery from Zagazig University in 2004, his neuropsychiatry master’s degree from Zagazig University in 2009 and his M.D. degree in psychiatry from Zagazig University in 2013. Abdelghani also obtained a training diploma in hospital administration from El-Sadat Academy in Cairo in 2013. Abdelghani’s current position is as a lecturer of psychiatry at Zagazig School of Medicine, and he is also a founding member of the first governmental addiction treatment and prevention unit in the Eastern Nile Delta. He is experienced in detox therapy and the management of psychiatric comorbidities. In addition to this work, he is a member of several NGOs that work to organize health campaigns in poor, rural areas. Abdelghani also trains mental health professionals in psychiatry and conducts research on different topics of psychiatry, including substance use disorders. During his fellowship, he will focus primarily on drug abuse prevention and treatment, especially cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing and other relapse prevention techniques, as well as the management of substance use disorders in special populations such as adolescents and women. He wishes to make the utmost use of his fellowship to improve addiction services in his country.

Rogers Mutaawe
Mutaawe, from Kampala, Uganda, earned his bachelor’s degree in social work and social administration in 2002, and is currently pursuing his master’s degree in human rights from Makerere University. Since 2002, Mutaawe has been working with the Uganda Youth Development Link as a field social worker, and he rose through the ranks to become the senior program manager in 2011. Mutaawe has implemented substance abuse prevention community projects through engagement with local leaders, provided counseling and rehabilitation services to young drug users and conducted substance abuse awareness sessions with students. Mutaawe has also participated in advocacy efforts aimed at influencing the development of Uganda’s national alcohol policy through engagement with policymakers, the media and partner organizations. In addition, he has been involved in the planning and execution of two alcohol research projects in collaboration with Georgia State University, and he co-authored three reports about the state of alcohol and drug abuse and alcohol regulation in Uganda. During his fellowship, Mutaawe wants to learn how to evaluate the effectiveness of community prevention and policy programs, how to influence the development of alcohol and drug policies, and to learn new skills in conducting alcohol and drug abuse research.

Usman Shamim
Shamim, from Quetta, Pakistan, earned his bachelor’s degree in economics in 2010 from Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences, and a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Balochistan. He also completed several training courses and workshops on disaster risk management and the development of an outreach drop-in center for drug addicts. He has been a resource panelist for developing and editing a guidebook on drug outreach programs in Asia titled “Concepts and Lessons Learnt,” published by The Colombo Plan Drug Advisory Program Sri Lanka. Shamim has more than eight years of experience in the nonprofit sector with organizations in Balochistan. He is currently working as a program director for Balochistan Development Initiatives, an organization that provides water and sanitation facilities, prevents environmental degradation, protects natural resources and provides education and health services to poor communities. Shamim’s experiences have equipped him with a variety of skills, such as project design and management, donor liaison and reporting, baseline surveys and assessment, and financial management. Shamim’s goals for his fellowship include enhancing his knowledge about substance abuse counseling and treatment techniques, as well as evaluation, so that he can expand and improve the treatment services available in Pakistan.

Nataša Tomic, M.D.
Tomic, from Banjaluka, Bosnia-Herzegovina, obtained her medical degree in 1989, and completed specialized training in rehabilitation medicine from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Banjaluka, in 2000. In 2009, she earned a master’s degree in human resources in health at the University of Keele in England. During the civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Tomic worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross in the medical department. After the war, Tomic was involved in various projects such as the establishment of community-based rehabilitation and psychosocial support services for adolescents traumatized by war. For the past eight years, Tomic has been the medical director of the Institute for Physical Medicine, Rehabilitation, Orthopedic Surgery and Baromedicine in Banjaluka, a leading rehabilitation hospital in her country. She has focused primarily on human resource management of approximately 500 staff, the coordination of medical and nonmedical teams and services, and strengthening the cooperation between the institute and other educational institutions. She has been actively involved in supporting multidisciplinary teams, adopting new rehabilitation services and implementing standards of care. During her fellowship, Tomic would like to enhance her knowledge of health systems functioning, health care financing, human resources management, project management and health promotion, including advocating for people with disabilities.


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