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



This September, two research assistants graduated from the Strategic Analysis, Research & Training (START) Center’s training program. Alison Wiyeh, MD, MSc, completed her research assistantship and will be working as a teaching assistant, and working to complete her dissertation. Mohamed Albirair, MBBS, MPH, completed his research assistantship and will be working on completing his dissertation and working as a research assistant and a teaching assistant.


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



Alison is a PhD student in Epidemiology at the University of Washington. She received a Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Buea, Cameroon and a Master of Science in Clinical Epidemiology from Stellenbosch University, South Africa. Prior to joining the START Center, she worked as a senior scientist at Cochrane South Africa, a unit of the South African Medical Research Council. Alison’s experience includes the conduct of systematic reviews and the use of evidence from systematic reviews to inform health policies. Her research interests include epidemiologic methods, vaccine implementation, and infectious disease epidemiology.

Alison worked on thirteen projects during her two-year engagement at START, acting as the Project Manager for five of them. Below are highlights from three of the projects Alison worked on:

  • COVID-19 in Pregnancy and Infancy Weekly Digest: During the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, the extent of its impact on vulnerable populations including pregnant women, newborns and children under five, was largely unknown. As the pandemic evolved rapidly, relevant literature became available through peer-reviewed and grey literature channels. The START team was tasked to compile weekly digests summarizing newly available pregnancy- and young child-related literature on COVID-19. Alison served as the project manager for these weekly digests.
  • COVID-19 Risk of Contacts Literature Review: The START team assembled research on COVID-19 secondary attack rates among households and community settings, and conducted a rapid, basic analysis of the data.
  • Vaccine Hesitancy Among Providers in Nigeria Phase 2: The START team conducted key informant interviews, a Facebook survey, and literature reviews to understand the state of Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy among Nigerian health care professionals, and identify potential interventions that could be successful in curbing it.



Mohamed Albirair is a physician from Sudan, and a Global Health Implementation Science PhD student in the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington. After receiving his Master of Public Health in Global Health from the University of Washington, he continued to build his work experience in health systems research, where he joined the Public Health Institute in Khartoum and participated in evaluating Universal Health Coverage in Sudan. Prior to joining START he worked as an M&E officer at the Global Fund Prospective Country Evaluation Project in Sudan, where he evaluated the Global Fund’s contribution to the national health indicator targets, the Global Fund’s business model, and strategic priority themes. Appreciating the importance of data, he seeks to enhance systems for data capturing and reporting, and promote the culture of data use to inform decision making for health programming. His research interests include health information system, enhancing infection control to prevent infection-related cancers, and innovations to improve country ownership to sustain and finance interventions and transition from external funds.

Mohamed worked on twelve projects during his two-year engagement at START, acting as the Project Manager for five of them. Below are highlights from three of the projects Mohamed worked on:

  • Washington Research Foundation Grant Program Evaluation: START conducted a comprehensive evaluation of the Washington Research Foundation (WRF)’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, providing recommendations to WRF in order to support innovation, foster a commercialization environment, and address unmet needs to make an impact in Washington State.
  • STH Environmental Surveillance: The START team was engaged by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) to review published literature pertaining to environmental surveillance for soil-transmitted helminths (STH), resulting in a literature review database and an accompanying SWOT analysis.
  • Development of Tools for Typhoid Surveillance: The START team reviewed published literature and interviewed local and international experts in both clinical sero-surveillance and environmental surveillance. Interviews were attended by both the Project Officer and a recruited content matter expert. The START team provided a synthesized report in the form of a pre-read to be distributed to the attendees of the coming convening hosted by BMGF. The pre-read had three main sections: Existing Tools, New Tools and Discussion Point. Collectively, they describe the different methods and convey experts’ opinions and priorities.

Reflecting on his experience at START, Mohamed said, “My time with Start has been an incredible journey, and a cornerstone of my both my personal and professional growth. The variety of projects that I worked on, from learning coding for predictive models and geospatial analysis, to synthesizing evidence for decision making, has further sharpened my technical skills. Working as a project manager, working with fellow RAs, being mentored by faculty leads, and receiving feedback on the process have all refined my skills and increased my confidence in my leadership style. The highlight of my time with START was being the International Student Representative, where I connected personally to fellow RAs, represented RAs’ voice at leadership meetings, and contributed to informing strategic planning. I wholeheartedly recommend investing the time with START for how rewarding it has been!”


These two 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.