Baylor Graduates Win Prestigious Rotary Global Grants

July 8, 2016

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WACO, Texas (July 8, 2016) — Prashant (Sunny) Appikatla, Brianna Williams and Jonathan Tingle, recent Baylor University graduates, were awarded Rotary Global Grants this spring. They plan to use the grants to earn master's degrees at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine next year.
Rotary Global Grants support international activities including humanitarian projects, graduate-level academic studies and vocational training teams. Applicants must propose a sustainable, measurable outcome in line with one of the Rotary's six areas of focus: promoting peace, fighting disease, providing clean water, saving mothers and children, supporting education or growing local economies.
Appikatla plans to use the grant to study infectious diseases, Williams will study reproductive and sexual health, and Tingle plans to study epidemiology.
"I chose to study at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine because it was one of the few schools with a master's program focused on immunology of infectious diseases," Appikatla said. "Additionally, LSHTM coordinates with numerous facilities worldwide to conduct their research."
Appikatla, who majored in biochemistry, became interested in studying infectious diseases while he was part of Students Improving Global Health Together (SIGHT), a group focused on empowering Baylor students for future service in global medicine and public health.
"There I learned about the horrors of malaria from a Kenyan pastor and about the nightmarish effects of neglected tropical diseases," Appikatla said. "The program at LSHTM will properly arm me with the tools to assist those suffering and hopefully prevent even more from contracting these infectious diseases."
After earning his master's, Appikatla intends to apply to medical school and hopes to practice medicine while researching infectious and neglected tropical diseases. He would like to eventually work with organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization to further prevent the global spread of infectious diseases.
"Prashant Appikatla is the ultimate multitasker — Biochemistry Honors Student, undergraduate researcher in the Trawick Lab, chemistry and biochemistry department ambassador, volunteer and president of For the Kids '15, vice chair of Baylor Relay for Life, supplier of homemade brownies for key events and all-around nice guy," said Mary Lynn Trawick, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry in Baylor's College of Arts and Sciences and Appikatla's research mentor.
Brianna Williams, who majored in medical humanities, decided to apply for the Rotary Global Grant after looking for a program that would allow her to earn her master's degree in the public health field.
"I first heard about LSHTM from another Baylor student," Williams said. "After looking at the curriculum, I decided to apply for their Master of Science in Reproductive and Sexual Health Research. I hope to focus on maternal health and nutrition and the implications of proper nutrition and healthcare on fetal outcomes and infant growth."
After earning her master's, Williams hopes to attend medical school and use what she learned in London to work with vulnerable populations across the globe.
"I hope to return to Texas for medical school in 2017 and eventually became an OB/GYN working in developing countries with vulnerable populations to improve public health infrastructure — especially for mothers and their children," Williams said.
Williams said she could not have applied for the grant without the help of many of her professors and advisors at Baylor, and her career aspirations have grown with their support.
"She made use of every opportunity, event and activity that the Medical Humanities Program offered," said Lauren Barron, M.D., associate director of medical humanities. "She's obviously outstanding in terms of academics, but I also appreciate her curiosity, her positivity, her willingness to serve and her openness to learning as much as she can about the world. She has wide-ranging interests but has maintained a focus on health care and the medical profession."
Jonathan Tingle, a University Scholar who graduated from Baylor in 2014 and has been working as a statistical analyst for the Mississippi Medical Center for Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, decided to pursue a Rotary Global Grant because the grant seemed to align well with his professional goals.
"I chose LSHTM because it's a very globally-oriented school, both in terms of the diverse students they admit and in terms of the diverse faculty they have and the research around the world that those faculty conduct," Tingle said. "LSHTM also has a big emphasis on doing research that is practical and that can be translated into interventions that improve people's lives … I chose the epidemiology program within LSHTM because they offer many courses on how to analyze public health data, which is very closely related to my current job and previous research interests."
Tingle said he plans to apply to medical schools this summer in hopes of starting medical school in the fall of 2017, immediately after he returns from London. After he graduates, he said he would like to go into medical research.
"Even though I'm going to medical school, I still want to incorporate and maintain my skills as a statistician/epidemiologist," Tingle said. "I also plan to be involved in global health work, continuing a lot of what I did at Baylor."
He also hopes to continue to work with Straw to Bread, a nonprofit organization started by Lisa Baker, Ph.D., clinical faculty in Baylor's Honors College, that does public health and mission work in Kenya. Tingle said he wants to invest himself in the community there as a doctor and a public health researcher.
"Jonathan Tingle not only completed significant undergraduate research projects in statistics and public health, but he also studied abroad in Maastricht with the splendid Baylor premedical program there," said Elizabeth Vardaman, associate dean of special academic projects, College of Arts & Sciences, and associate director of the honors program. "He also served in leadership roles with the Straw to Bread medical missions trips to Kenya on three occasions. He is superbly prepared to maximize this great opportunity through Rotary at LSHTM in London. It was an honor to work with him throughout his years at Baylor."
Appikatla, Williams and Tingle will study in London for the 2016-17 academic year.
"The lives of these three scholars will be changed for the better, and that change will have a lifelong ripple effect as they interact with family, friends, colleagues and patients over the coming years," said Katherine Logue, executive director of the Waco Rotary Club.
To learn more about the Rotary Global Grant, visit the Rotary website online.
by Karyn Simpson, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805
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