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. Fatima Al-Shimari, MPH, completed her research assistantship and graduated from her Masters in Public Health program. Mathias Lalika, MD, MPH, completed his research assistantship and graduated from her Masters in Public Health program as well.

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



Fatima Al-Shimari graduated with her MPH from the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington in the summer of 2022. She received her undergraduate degrees in Biology (BS) and Chemistry (BA) from the University of Washington. Fatima loves engaging with all things related to research and innovation. During her undergraduate studies, she led various projects in collaboration with the University of Washington and the Seattle Children’s Hospital. After completing her undergraduate studies, she worked as a researcher with the World Health Organization and other local and international NGOs and a few med-tech start-up companies abroad. She also helped plan and facilitate multiple international maternal and child health conferences, including the 2018 AMCHP Conference and the 2019 SAHM conference. Through the START Center, she was able to apply her data analysis skills to better public health outcomes. Her research interests include maternal and child health, infectious diseases, social determinants of health, and Global Fund projects.

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

  • Overcoming Barriers to Post-Natal Care and Small Sick Newborn Care-Taking:  The START team described gaps on the literature and practice associated with demand-side interventions to increase rates of care-seeking and healthy home behaviors related to post-natal care (PNC), with a particular emphasis on the well-being of small and sick newborns (SSN).
  • Mapping the Long-Term Sequelae of Acute Shigella Infection in Young Children: The team conducted a systematic review of the long-term sequelae of acute Shigella infection in children under 5 years of age to inform data collection for the Enterics for Global Health (EFGH) Shigella surveillance study and support the value proposition for Shigella vaccines.
  • Alternatives to the Human Landing Catch: The team conducted key informant interviews, and a synthesis of two recent literature reviews, to summarize the global and regional perspectives on the need for a replacement to the human landing catch, in order to aid future funding decisions.

Reflecting on her experience at START, Fatima said, “working at the START Center gave me the opportunity to conduct research for clients who are major influencers in the global health landscape, including teams from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization, PATH, and IHME. I got to hone my research and data analysis skills and acquire new skills through the diverse range of projects I worked on. Being a project manager allowed me to work with fellow researchers, learn from faculty leaders across multiple departments, and receive tremendous support from our phenomenal Operations Team! In addition to professionally growing, my research experience at the START Center allowed me to grow personally and academically. Serving as Student Representative at START was one of my favorite parts of the job. I had the opportunity to build relationships with fellow researchers and represent their interests in strategic planning meetings with START leadership. Working with the START Center has been the highlight of my graduate school experience! I strongly recommend it to any graduate student interested in refining their research skills and gaining confidence in their leadership and management roles!”


Mathias Lalika graduated with his MPH from the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington in the summer of 2022. He received his medical degree summa cum laude from the Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina in Havana, Cuba. During his medical training, he worked as a Research Assistant, where he conducted original research on cervical intraepithelial neoplasia and cervical cancer, did several literature reviews, and presented his research works in regional and national conferences. Prior to returning to his home country of Tanzania, Mathias completed his medical internship at the Arnaldo Milián Castro University Hospital in Villa Clara, Cuba. He is currently serving as a Regional Coordinator for the Pan African Health Alliance (PAHA), an organization he helped found as a medical student—which has grown to include members throughout Africa. His interests include infectious diseases, chronic diseases, improving maternal and child health outcomes, and addressing health disparities.

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

  • Lessons Learned from COVID-19 Modeling Policy in Washington State: The START team documented how evidence from modeling and analytics was used to inform policy in Washington State’s COVID-19 response and identified lessons learned from this experience—which can inform research-policy partnerships, policy decisions, and formation of responsive systems to address public health emergencies in the future.
  • Neglected Tropical Diseases and Immunization Integration: The COVID-19 Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) and Immunization Integration Project examined integration between immunization programs and NTD/Malaria mass drug administration, providing recommendations for how the NTD platform could be leveraged to inform the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations in Africa.
  • Reaching Zero Dose Communities:  START was engaged by the Global Delivery Program Team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) to review existing evidence on barriers to vaccinating zero-dose children—commonly defined as those that have not received any routine vaccine—and interventions for finding and reaching them.

Speaking on his experience with START, Mathias stated, “At START, I have grown as a person, a public health professional, and a leader. I attribute much of that growth to working with incredible RAs, faculty leads, and clients with varied working and leadership styles—bringing not only global health but also business and policy aspects of public health. Also, wearing multiple hats as a Research Assistant, a Project Manager, and a Student Representative allowed me to learn more about my strengths, areas of improvement, core values, and above all, how to leverage them to influence change. If you thrive in a multifaceted and fast-paced environment, consider making START your next home!”

Following his appointment with START, Mathias began an appointment as a Cardiovascular Health Innovations in Equity Fellow in the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Mayo Clinic.

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.