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Learning New Skills to Study Girls’ Mental and Reproductive Health in Tanzania

To enhance her dissertation on mental and reproductive health among adolescent girls, Emily Cherenack volunteered with a nonprofit in Tanzania and received specialized training at the University of Miami.

Cherenack, a Ph.D. student in Clinical Psychology, was among 18 Duke University students who received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) in 2017-18 from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies for training beyond their core disciplines. Her faculty mentor is Kathleen Sikkema. She shared an update:

A smiling woman

I spent the summer learning interdisciplinary methods to conduct research on reproductive health among adolescent girls globally and in the United States. For half the summer, I worked with Dr. Adam Carrico at the University of Miami to learn how to use biological markers in research with HIV-positive women. The time I spent in his lab was instrumental in learning more about psychoneuroimmunology and the collection and analysis of biological data from participants and medical charts.

For the other half of the summer, I lived in Moshi, Tanzania and worked with the NGO Femme International, which provides menstrual education and sustainable menstrual solutions to girls in Tanzania and Kenya. With Femme International, I learned how to conduct research on menstruation with adolescent girls in schools and saw how to implement education interventions with girls.

From these experiences, I refined my dissertation, which focuses on mental health and reproductive health among adolescent girls in Tanzania. Funding from the GSTEG grant was essential for me to gain these experiences and work with experts at the University of Miami and in the field in Tanzania to develop an interdisciplinary dissertation that merges the fields of clinical psychology and reproductive health.


This internal funding mechanism from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies encourages doctoral and master’s students to step away from their core research and training to acquire skills, knowledge, or co-curricular experiences that will give them new perspectives on their research agendas. Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants are intended to deepen preparation for academic positions and other career trajectories.