It’s a muggy morning in late August in Durham, N.C.—the temperature has already hit 85 degrees by 9 a.m.—and Jeff Letourneau is headed into the woods. The PhD student in Duke’s Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology is out looking for pawpaws—the green, mango-sized fruit with a creamy yellow center. He uses them to make a variety of foods and beverages for his family, including smoothies, custard, and even beer. Often, he just slices them open and eats them plain after being chilled in the refrigerator.
When Duke’s Charlene Wong, MD, MSHP, initially decided to pursue a Master of Science in Health Policy Research, she hoped to one day draw on that experience to help improve health and health care. But she never expected that she’d be leveraging her skills to respond to the largest public health crisis of the 21st century.
Let’s say you’re on a weekend trip to outer space when you suddenly experience stabbing pains in your abdomen. What would you do?
Or what if you were on a three-year trip to Mars and developed a throat ulcer that wouldn’t heal? What if a decaying tooth started throbbing? What if you broke a bone?
Dominic Tanzillo and Nick Saba, who both earned their bachelor’s degrees from Duke in 2021, are fascinated by questions like these. And, to judge by the popularity of a space medicine course they designed last year and continue to teach, they are not the only ones.
When Jennifer Rymer, MD, entered cardiology fellowship training at Duke in 2014, she was the only woman in her training class. Given the historically low number of women entering cardiology training programs in the U.S., this was unsurprising. Today, just 13 percent of practicing cardiologists in the U.S. are women while fewer than 6 percent of trainees are from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups (UREGs), which the American Association of Medical Colleges defines as Black, Hispanic, Latinx or Native American.