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Alumni Spotlight: Meet Two Recent Graduates of START’s Training Program

Alumni Spotlight: Meet Two Recent Graduates of START’s Training Program

Over the summer, seven research assistants graduated from the Strategic Analysis, Research & Training (START) Center’s training program, four of whom also completed their graduate degrees in June. Ronit Dalmat, Andrew Kwist, and Diana Tordoff each completed a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Epidemiology, and Oluyinka Awobiyi graduated with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Danae Black, PhD student in Epidemiology, Brienna Naughton, PhD student in Global Health Implementation Science, and Leah Isquith-Dicker, PhD candidate in Biocultural Anthropology, completed their research assistantships, and are currently working to complete their dissertations. These seven START graduates will continue to engage with START’s extensive alumni network, established in 2011. START often invites alumni to share about 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. This week you will learn more about these seven outstanding graduates, hear about the highlights of their START experience, and learn about their plans post-START.

Below, learn about two recent graduates of the START Center training program, Leah Isquith-Dicker and Andrew Kwist. You may read the first post in this series here and the second here, for an overview of five other recent graduates from the START Center.


Leah Isquith-Dicker

Before joining the START team, Leah spent ten months in Peru as a Fogarty Scholar where she conducted mixed-methods research to explore the associations between women’s social networks, food security, and nutritional health. Leah earned a BA in Anthropology and Global Health, Culture, and Society from Emory University and an MPH in Global Health from the University of Washington (UW). Currently, Leah is a PhD candidate in Biocultural Anthropology and began her work with START in January 2018.

Over the course of her engagement with the START Center, Leah worked on three fascinating projects. In her first project, Leah and her team conducted a landscape analysis of available technologies to quantify volumes of fecal sludge, track trucks moving fecal sludge, and quantify the solid composition of fecal sludge in low and middle-income countries using peer reviewed literature, grey literature, product catalogs, and key informant interviews. For her second project, Leah and her team conducted an extensive literature search to understand the recent decrease in under-five and infant mortality in low and middle-income countries for the Exemplars in Under-5 Mortality project, working under the direction of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and in conjunction with the University for Global Health Equity (UGHE) and Bill Gates Catalyst 3 (bgC3). For Leah’s third and final project, she conducted a systematic review and analysis to identify early childhood development assessment tools that are associated with long-term outcomes of educational attainment, academic achievement, and socioeconomic measures.


Leah (left) attends the Washington On-Site Sewage Association Conference for the Fecal Sludge project


Leah’s training in biocultutral anthropology brought a unique perspective to the START team and her diverse background and skills were integral to the success of her projects. Throughout the course of her time with START, Leah conveyed that she valued having the opportunity to exercise her professional skills and enhance and refine her management style. Leah is completing her dissertation and preparing to defend in January 2019. After completing her PhD, she plans to seek a health research and evaluation position in Seattle that will help inform and improve services for marginalized populations.


Andrew Kwist

Andrew was accepted to the University of Washington in the fall of 2016 as an MPH student in the Department of Epidemiology. He received his BA in International Studies from the University of Denver where he concentrated in International Health and Development and the Arabic language.  Before joining START, he worked on curriculum development for an international NGO that focused on health systems strengthening and spent several years living and working in the Middle East.

During his tenure with START, Andrew worked on five projects. Three of which focused on maternal, infant, and child health and nutrition in middle-and low-income settings. During his work on the Demand Generation Investments project, Andrew and his team conducted a literature review of seven key topic areas in family planning across sub-Saharan Africa, as well as created a summary of country donors for the Integrated Delivery team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Andrew then served as project manager on the PATH Access to Essential Medicines Business Cases project, leading the team to develop business cases for three essential medicines in low and middle-income countries. During Andrew’s final project with the START Center, the Childhood Development Measures project, his team conducted a systematic review to investigate associations between early childhood development tools and long-term adult outcomes. The purpose of this review was to support appropriate tool choice for interventions attempting to reform the developmental trajectories of at-risk children to facilitate greater long-term productivity and well-being.

Andrew was an exceptional leader and team member during his time with START. Reflecting on his experience with START, Andrew reports that he developed valuable technical, leadership, and project management skills that can be directly transferred to his next position. Andrew graduated with his MPH in Epidemiology in June and is currently working as a Data and Policy Analyst for Acumen, LLC in Burling, CA.

Andrew (left) presents findings of the Access to Essential Medicines project at PATH