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Ramanujam Receives Fulbright Global Scholar Award

Nimmi Ramanujam will use the award to establish a strategy for community-based cervical cancer screening strategies

Nimmi Ramanujam, the Robert W. Carr Jr. Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University, received the Fulbright Global Scholar Fellowship in recognition of her work surrounding cervical cancer screening and diagnosis. As the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government, the Fulbright program allows academics and professionals to engage in multi-country, trans-regional projects over the course of an academic year.

With work at the intersection of engineering and global health, Ramanujam will use the Fulbright award to establish a strategy for community-based cervical cancer screening strategies in Chennai, India and Lima, Peru using technologies developed by her team.

In addition to her role in Duke BME, Ramanujam is the director of Duke’s Global Women’s Health Technologies Center, a joint venture between Duke Global Health Institute and the Pratt School of Engineering. The poster child for Ramanujam’s research is the Pocket Colposcope, a compact tool that enables healthcare workers––and women themselves–– to both scan for and diagnose cervical cancer without expensive imaging equipment. The newest iteration of the device, dubbed the Callascope, also removes the need for a speculum, eliminating what many women consider to be the most uncomfortable, and sometimes painful, aspect of cervical cancer screening.

“Cervical cancer is a disease of excess mortality. This is the one cancer that can be prevented through well-established interventions, and if these interventions were available to all women I believe the cervical cancer mortality rate would be plummet,” says Ramanujam. “The Pocket Colposcope is our first step towards bringing complex services traditionally offered at hard-to-reach referral settings to primary care.”

Through Bass Connections projects beginning in 2016, Ramanujam and her team have been exploring how the Pocket Colposcope can be implemented into existing healthcare systems in settings with limited resources. During the 2016-2017 school year, students traveled to Lima, Peru to perform a global value chain analysis to identify leverage points that could increase the adoption of the Pocket Colposcope. The team built on this knowledge during the 2017-2018 school year, where they focused on launching a community health provider program to implement the Pocket Colposcope in the primary care setting in Peru. Now the Bass program is focusing on implementing these health care innovations in low resource communities in the U.S.

“Inventions such as the Pocket Colposcope are enabling technologies, but for these technologies to have an impact, we really need to tailor them to the ecosystem they will be used in and working in the field with stakeholders is an important step in achieving them,” says Ramanujam. “The Fulbright Award will allow me to pursue these partnerships during my sabbatical.”

The Fulbright Global Scholar Fellowship aims to increase the mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and the people of other countries. Fulbright alumni have become heads of state, judges, ambassadors, cabinet ministers, CEOs and university presidents, as well as leading journalists, artists, scientists and teachers. They include 59 Nobel Laureates, 84 Pulitzer Prize winners, 72 MacArthur Fellows, 16 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients, and thousands of leaders across the private, public and for-profit sectors. Since its inception in 1946, more than 380,000 “Fulbrighters” have participated in the program. To learn more, visit: https://www.cies.org/program/fulbright-global-scholar-award