Student Spotlight October 2017

    Baraka Muvuka




    Baraka Muvuka graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Sillman University (Philippines) in 2013. In 2015, she obtained a Master’s of Public Health-Global Health from Liberty University in Virginia. Since then, Baraka has been pursuing her Ph.D. in Public Health at the University of Louisville, specializing in Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences and expects to graduate in 2018. Baraka currently holds a position as a Graduate Research Assistant in the Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky, School of Public Health and Information Sciences (SPHIS).





    1. What brought you to the University of Louisville?

    I found that the University of Louisville offered several opportunities for me to enhance the knowledge and skills needed to achieve my career goals. At SPHIS, I was particularly drawn to faculty research on a broad range of issues including health disparities, health literacy, HIV, social justice, community engagement, and global health (study abroad opportunities).

    2. Specific areas of research (how you chose this research, why it interested you):

    I am interested in exploring the social, structural, and health systems determinants of maternal mortality and morbidity in Sub-Saharan Africa, which currently accounts for 66% of maternal deaths globally. I am also interested in evaluating interventions that aim to address preventable maternal deaths during pregnancy, delivery, and in the immediate postpartum period.

    3. How would you describe your area of study/ specific research to a family member unfamiliar with your field?

    I am interested in understanding and addressing factors that lead to preventable deaths of women around the time of pregnancy and childbirth.

    4. What made you go into this field of study?

    I was motivated by global reports of large proportions of women in developing countries dying from preventable causes during pregnancy and childbirth. The Democratic Republic of Congo-where I am from-still struggles with a very high maternal mortality rate due to various socio-economic, political, and structural factors. I would like to be part of global efforts to improve women’s health and quality of life because I believe maternal mortality is a public health, human rights, and social justice issue.

    5. Awards and Publications:

    * Non-Resident Tuition Differential Award (2016-present), University of Louisville
    * Travel awards for conference presentations and international travel, University of Louisville
    * Exceptional Student Award, Liberty University, May 9, 2015
    * MPH Graduate with High Distinction, Liberty University, May 9, 2015
    * 2012 University International Student of the Year, Silliman University, Philippines
    * Most Outstanding International Student in the Philippines 2011, Philippine International Friendship and Understanding Association, Philippines

    Publications and Presentations at Scientific Conferences
    I have authored/co-authored 5 manuscripts that are currently in progress/under peer review as well as 12 presentations at scientific conferences, including the following:
    Muvuka B, Harris M. The impact of gold mining on women’s health and quality of life in Obuasi, Ghana: Exploring women’s perceptions. Poster presentation at Research!Louisville 2017, Louisville, Kentucky.

    Combs R, Ali N, Muvuka, B. Brown K, Mitchell C. Addressing Health Literacy in an African American population. Oral presentation at the 2017 Kentucky Public Health Association Annual Conference, Owensboro, Kentucky.

    Muvuka B, Gray A, Aramburu C, Kakar RM, Ayangeakaa SD, Leslie KF, Krigger KW, Spencer C. Increasing access to HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis: An assessment of physician barriers to administration. Roundtable presentation at the 2016 American Public Health Association Annual Conference and Exposition, Denver, Colorado.

    Muvuka B, Combs RM, Ayangeakaa SD, Ali NM, Wendel ML, Jackson T. Factors contributing to inadequate health literacy among African Americans: A literature review. Poster presentation at Research!Louisville 2016, Louisville, Kentucky.

    6. How do you think this advanced degree will change your role in society?

    My advanced degree will enable me to contribute to research, develop and evaluate programs, and influence policies (local, national, international) that will ultimately reduce or eliminate preventable maternal deaths.

    7. What has been your favorite part of the graduate school experience at UofL?

    I love working with community members, so my favorite graduate school experience is being part of a Community-Based Participatory Research team at SPHIS and conducting community-based research in Ghana (Summer ‘17). These experiences have enabled me to build long-term relationships with colleagues, mentors, and community members.

    8. What do you feel is the greatest challenge that graduate students face and how have you dealt with this challenge?

    Graduate school can be overwhelming. It is challenging to juggle academic requirements, work, personal life, and social responsibilities. However, time management and taking short breaks/vacations have worked well for me. Social support from family and friends also keep me going.

    Fun Facts
    A talent you have always wanted: I wish I could play musical instruments (piano, guitar, violin).
    Favorite book: “Half of a Yellow Sun” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    Favorite quote: “Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud” —Maya Angelou
    Role Model: My parents and professors—I wanna be like them when I grow up :)
    Favorite Vacation Destination: Europe and Africa
    If you weren’t in graduate school, what would you be doing now? Working on maternal and child health projects around the world.