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Four Students Receive Hannah Graham Memorial Awards to Advance Women’s Health

The University of Virginia’s 2019 Hannah Graham Memorial Awards will support two distinct projects that aim to advance women’s health in Rwanda.  

Brooke Adams, a third-year student majoring in global public health with a music minor, and Sonja Kapadia, a second-year student also majoring in global public health with a French minor, will participate in a study to investigate early recognition and management of critically ill obstetric patients in district hospitals in Rwanda in order to reduce maternal mortality. 

“I am incredibly grateful to be one of this year’s recipients and honor Hannah’s memory in Rwanda this summer,” Adams said. “The award gives students the opportunity to engage in firsthand experience abroad and I am extremely excited to be a part of a project that has the potential to create positive, sustainable change in regard to maternal health in Rwanda.”

Kapadia, too, said she was “honored and thrilled” to win the grant. “This award will give me the opportunity to pursue a dream and celebrate the memory of Hannah as I conduct obstetric research in Rwanda this coming summer,” she said. “The project is generated entirely by Rwandan residents, so I am excited to experience Rwandan culture and hope to help make a significant local impact in the framework of their hospitals.” 

Both students will be mentored by Dr. Paulin Banguti, an anesthesiologist, residency program director and researcher at the University of Rwanda.

The second Graham Award will go to Marc Vetter, a first-year School of Medicine student, and Kathryn Partlow, a second-year student in the School of Nursing, who will work with medical resident Dr. Claudine Uzamakunda in the University of Rwanda’s Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Emergency Medicine, which is directed by Banguti.  

Their study aims to identify the prevalence and risk factors associated with the development of chronic pain after abdominal hysterectomy.  

“I am incredibly honored to have received the Hannah Graham Memorial Award,” Vetter said. “For me, this grant is an opportunity to use my passion for the French language and public policy to engage in meaningful research that directly and tangibly impacts the health status of women who are experiencing chronic post-operative pain in Rwanda.

“Working at the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali under the guidance of local health care professionals will provide me with a dynamic environment in which to help the Rwandan Ministry of Health identify and address the risk factors that predispose women to chronic pain after an abdominal hysterectomy. I want to sincerely thank the Graham family for their support and for creating this award.” 

“The Hannah Graham Memorial Award gives participants the wonderful opportunity to honor the memory of an impactful member of the UVA community through the lens of women’s health,” Partlow said.

She said it is well-known that many women experience chronic pain issues after abdominal hysterectomy. “Yet, there is no concrete data to demonstrate the need for changes in care,” she said. “This project is a small step toward concrete change. I am honored to be a part of it, and so thankful to Mr. and Mrs. Graham for giving me the chance to do so.”

Now in its fourth year, the Hannah Graham Memorial Award supports a yearlong engagement to promote health and development and/or reduce violence against women and girls in French-speaking countries. 

Graham, a second-year student, was the victim of a homicide in 2014. The award was created by her parents in 2015 to honor her memory and her potential by supporting work they say their daughter would have pursued were she still alive. 

“We are delighted that this year’s awards bring to 10 the number of students supported in their important and fascinating projects inspired by the Hannah Graham Memorial Award,” John and Sue Graham wrote. “These projects benefit the host communities and the students, and we would like to thank the award donors and UVA staff, without whom this would not be possible.” 

Faculty associated with UVA’s Center for Global Health advise and screen the candidates. The award’s board of trustees selects the recipients. All four award recipients are mentored by Dr. Marcel Durieux of UVA’s School of Medicine, who works extensively in Rwanda.

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