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Co-ops shift from studying a tropical disease to fighting a new outbreak

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Sarah Weihl and Catherine Wenger, both fifth-year students at Northeastern, had only recently begun their research into the parasitic disease visceral leishmaniasis in Chemolingot, Kenya, when word of a new outbreak of the disease elsewhere in the country reached them.

Weihl, who is studying human services and global health, and Wenger, a student of international affairs and global health, were on co-op at the Research on Multi-Disease and Educational Services Center, or TERMES Center, established by Richard Wamai, associate professor of cultures, societies, and global studies at Northeastern. The students, who had arrived in Kenya less than a month prior, were getting their bearings and beginning to build relationships within the community at Chemolingot when representatives from Kenya’s Ministry of Health tapped the TERMES team to help establish treatment for this new outbreak of visceral leishmaniasis.

It was a wise choice—Wamai has been collaborating with local health officials and researchers to study the tropical disease and build up a health clinic and research center in the country for the better part of a decade. Weihl and Wenger were on hand to learn from Wamai and the local team and to help digitize and build a database for medical records at the Chemolingot Sub-District Hospital, and spread awareness of the disease.

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