Start Center - Strategic Analysis, Research & Training Center
START Center



This June, four research assistants graduated from the Strategic Analysis, Research & Training (START) Center’s training program, three of whom also completed their graduate degrees. Barbara Burke, Implementation Science PhD candidate in Global Health, completed her research assistantship and is now working to complete her dissertation. Brenda Kharono completed a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Global Health. Shadae Paul completed a Master of Public Health in Global Health and a Master of Public Administration (MPA). Shira Grayson graduated with a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Genetics.

Below, learn more about our impressive graduates and the work they completed while engaged with START.



Before joining START, Barbara worked as a Regional Research, Monitoring, and Evaluation Advisor at Ipas.  During her time at Ipas, Barbara provided technical support virtually and in person for monitoring, evaluation and research for abortion and family planning programs with health system, community, and policy interventions in Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, and Nigeria.

Barbara worked on six projects during her two-year research assistantship with the START Center, and was the project manager for five of them. The highlights of three of these projects are listed below:



  • Fecal Sludge Sensors project – Barbara’s team conducted a landscape analysis of sensor technologies to track and measure fecal sludge in low and middle-income countries (LMIC). Fecal sludge management is an important part of safe provision of sanitation facilities, however, lacks monitoring and evaluation to confirm the safe disposal of waste. The team identified technologies to automate counting and tracking of vacuum trucks and other desludging vehicles, quantify the volume of fecal sludge being transported, and measure the solids content of sludge.
  • Health System Strengthening Analysis project – the START team developed two summary documents to inform strategic discussions for Gavi 5.0. The landscape analysis included descriptions of programmatic and financial health systems strengthening support, including program elements, eligibility guidelines, funding levels, and details on specific funding envelopes. Further, the team requested an overview of Gavi’s health systems strengthening support over time, encompassing their evolving funding mechanisms and specific challenges, successes, key recommendations from evaluations, and decisions made by the organization. In addition, the team produced an annotated bibliography of sources used in these two documents.
  • Children’s HeartLink (CHL) Program Development for Scaling project – the team explored CHL’s current model and processes. Through a series of stakeholder interviews with CHL staff, volunteers, and partners, START identified barriers and facilitators that both challenge and support current operations and the potential to scale.

Barbara finished her research assistantship with START in June of 2019, and is continuing research for her dissertation as an Implementation Science Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Global Health.



Brenda holds a Medicine and Surgery degree (MBChB) from Makerere University, College of Health Sciences in Kampala, Uganda. As a research clinician, she worked on integrated HIV research studies that focused on Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV and Maternal, Neonatal and Child health outcomes. Her primary roles involved providing both clinical and research support. Prior to joining the Makerere University – Johns Hopkins University Research Collaboration, she worked with the Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI) after completing her medical training. Her work with IDI primarily involved treatment, prevention, and counseling services.

During her research assistantship with the START Center, Brenda worked on seven projects. Learn more about three of these projects below:

  • Risk-Group Heterogeneity – the team conducted a systematic review to identify demographic and risk-behavior groups which were associated with awareness of HIV status, enrollment in HIV treatment, and achievement of viral suppression on the HIV care cascade. Results of this project were presented at the AIDS 2018 conference in Amsterdam.
  • Senegal Fact Base project – the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Africa Team is developing an advocacy strategy that enables them to operate without an office or presence. As Senegal represents an important country for the foundation, the START team was tasked with identifying key stakeholders and focus areas within Senegal to engage. Using the Plan for an Emerging Senegal (PES), the overarching policy framework laying out Senegal’s target projects and goals until 2035, the START team identified six focus areas (WASH, Family Planning, Gender Equality, Malaria, UHC, and Agriculture) to further investigate.
  • Rotavirus Meta-Analysis project – on her final project with the START Center, Brenda and her team conducted a systematic literature review and meta-analysis of rotavirus morbidity and burden among people 5 years old and younger with specific estimates generated by age strata.

Brenda graduated with her MPH in Global Health in June and is currently looking into opportunities globally that will utilize her medical and public health skills, with a focus in women and child health.



Prior to joining START, Shadae worked for the US Department of State and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Fiji, South Pacific, where she developed health education programs to improve health outcomes for women, adolescents, and children.

Shadae worked on 7 projects in her two-year research assistantship with the START Center, serving as project manager on one. Three of these projects are highlighted below:




  • Behavior Change Analysis project – the team conducted an analysis of the Fogg Behavior Model in the context of a condom advertisement campaign in Pakistan. The purpose of this analysis was to use data from the condom campaign to determine if the Fogg Behavior Model could be a valid tool to determine behavior change. Specifically, the team looked at how motivation and ability is associated with condom use among married men in urban Pakistan. Shadae presented the project findings at the American Public Health Association conference in San Diego, California.
  • Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health Nigeria State Profiles project – the START team performed data extraction and calculation of Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health (MNCH) indicators from Nigerian national health surveys and conducted a literature review on demand and utilization of MNCH services as they relate to vulnerabilities, social constraints, and differences in the public and private health sectors.
  • Birthing Suite of the Future project – on her final project with the START Center, Shadae and her team supported the research at BMGF to better understand the ideal vision for what kinds of labor and delivery services should be offered at specific levels in the health system.

Shadae graduated with her MPA and MPH in Global Health in June. Shadae is currently seeking internship and/or fellowship opportunities before pursuing a doctorate in public health (DrPH).



Prior to START, Shira worked on interdisciplinary research projects at the Center for Women’s Health Research in Wisconsin and at the University of Minnesota in the departments of Food Science and Nutrition. Shira also led health advocacy and reproductive health education initiatives at two non-profit health organizations in Minneapolis. Most recently, she worked at the International Society for Stem Cell Research where she served as the International Program Coordinator.

Shira worked on four projects during her two-year research assistantship with the START Center, serving as project manager on one project. Below are snapshots from three of the projects on which Shira was engaged:


  • Innovative Technology Solutions Gut Receptors project – Shira and her team conducted a landscape analysis to evaluate targetable receptors in the gut that interface with infant health and immunity with potential relevance to global health.
  • Exemplars in Under 5 Mortality project – under the direction of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and in conjunction with the University for Global Health Equity (UGHE) and the Bill Gates Catalyst 3 (bgC3), the team conducted an extensive literature review of how and why low and middle-income countries have decreased under-five and infant mortality from 2000 to 2015. The team’s work focused on Ethiopia and utilized an extensive list of causes of death, periods of risk, and associated evidence-based interventions provided by UGHE.
  • Birth Asphyxia project – Shira was the project manager for her final project with the START Center, where her team performed a literature review to assess current interventions for neonatal hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), a form of birth asphyxia. Specifically, the team examined interventions that show promise in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), examined the effect of implementation of known interventions and programs, and what is the incidence of mild, moderate, and severe neonatal HIE by level of care facility and by geography.

Shira graduated with her MPH in Genetics in June and accepted a consulting position with Sage Bionetworks.


These four START graduates will continue to engage with START’s extensive alumni network, established in 2011. START often invites alumni to share their experiences after graduating from the training program at all-team meetings and, additionally, taps into the alumni network for content expertise on projects. The alumni network is comprised of highly skilled START graduate professionals employed in global health, business, and consulting across disciplines.