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Walden Magazine // Sep 15, 2015

Inspiring Healthy Lifestyle Choices in South African Populations

PhD graduate and fellowship recipient Takiyah White Ndwanya hopes to raise awareness about the impact of infectious diseases in South Africa.

September 2015—Takiyah White Ndwanya ’15, a PhD in Public Health with a specialization in Epidemiology graduate, received the 2014 Fellowship in Research and Applications for Social Change, a $10,000 grant through the Presidential Fellowship Program, to pursue her doctoral study, Attitudes and Behaviors of South African Women and Psychosocial Determinants of Gonorrhea.

“I want to bring awareness to health disparities among vulnerable populations in regards to infectious diseases, specifically HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections (STIs),” says Ndwanya. After applying her study to black women ages 18–35 in the Langa Township in Cape Town, South Africa, Ndwanya found that the women did not have an extensive knowledge of gonorrhea but believed that a sense of vulnerability, stress in relationships, and social/environmental issues increased their risk of contracting the disease.

Ndwanya graduated from The George Washington University with a Master of Public Health (MPH) in 2004. Her previous work in Cape Town includes serving as a consultant for Treatment Action Campaign, an HIV/AIDS advocacy group, and as executive project manager for the nonprofit organization Living Through Learning. She worked as a visiting teaching associate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for the fall 2014 semester before returning to Cape Town to complete her dissertation.

Ndwanya decided to pursue her PhD with Walden because it would grant her the flexibility to travel overseas and still complete her academics. “I truly enjoyed studying this discipline because it was ever-changing and allowed me to interact with individuals to bring about behavior changes that lead to a better quality of life,” she says.

Professionally, Ndwanya wants to continue conducting epidemiological research among vulnerable populations worldwide. She is currently doing a research fellowship in Johannesburg, South Africa, at the Health Economics and Epidemiology Research Office in collaboration with Boston University and the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

“The best part of receiving this fellowship through Walden is that I was able to extend my fieldwork over a long period of time,” she says. “This added substantially to the quality of my data, which have been presented internationally.”

About the Fellowship
The Fellowship in Research and Applications for Social Change was established to enable members of the Walden community to make a significant and meaningful change in academic and social communities, both locally and globally.