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Alumnus Spotlight: Dr. Duke Appiah

Name: Duke Appiah 
DegreePhD in Epidemiology (2013); MPH with a concentration in Epidemiology (2009)
Title: Assistant Professor and MPH Program Director, Dept. of Public Health, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Campus

While practicing optometry in Ghana, SPHIS alumnus, Duke Appiah’s, passion for disease prevention at the population level was “kick-started” thanks in part to his professors as well as the cases he encountered in the clinic. He said, “Many of the situations could have been easily controlled with early treatment interventions; however, patients often presented in advanced stages of the disease where not much could be done for them.”

Duke began investigating graduate programs and discovered UofL while searching the internet. For a boxing fan like Duke, getting the opportunity to live and learn in the city of the Greatest of All Time, Muhammad Ali, and finding a program that had a good blend of biology of diseases and statistics (epidemiology), made Louisville and SPHIS an easy choice.

While in Louisville, Duke got a better understanding of the various domains of public health, and SPHIS is where he developed his love for epidemiology. Having access to faculty with diverse levels of expertise allowed him to gain a wealth of knowledge in different areas of public health, which “opened several doors of opportunity.”

After graduating from SPHIS in 2009, Duke went to the University of Minnesota on a T32-funded fellowship. While there, he worked on several National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI)-funded cohort studies, namely the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study, the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) and Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS).

His advice to public health students is to learn from your professors and colleagues. Have an open mind, embrace different perspectives, use critical thinking, believe in yourself and your abilities, be courageous, and help others. “As one of my genetic epidemiology professors once told me, the good that you do onto others will someday be returned unto you. I have seen this come true in my own life uncountable times,” he said.

Duke will be awarded the Trudy Bush Fellowship for Cardiovascular Disease Research in Women's Health at the American Heart Association (AHA) EPI - Lifestyle 2020 Scientific Session in Phoenix, Arizona, March 3-6.

Duke has been involved with the AHA since 2013 and currently serves on the advancement committee. During the conference, he will present his research, “Lactation Duration is Associated with Lower Visceral and Pericardial Fat Volumes in Parous Women: 25-year Follow-up in the Cardia Study." The take-home message from this research is that women who breastfeed for longer durations over their life tend to have lower visceral and pericardial fat volumes compared to those who did not breastfeed. With visceral and pericardial fat being related to cardiovascular diseases, encouraging women to breastfeed will not only enhance the health of their babies but also potentially enhance their long-term cardiovascular health.

Many individuals have played an integral role in Duke’s life, both professionally and personally, and he wanted to conclude by expressing his gratitude.

“I’m very grateful to SPHIS and all the faculty who in one way or the other helped me to be who I am today. I’m highly appreciative of the chair and faculty of the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health for giving me a great learning experience. They funded my education and provided me with opportunities to attend several conferences, not to mention a great dissertation committee chair in the person of Dr. Hornung who demonstrates, love, care and continues to provide mentorship to me. I will also like to thank all the administrative staff, especially Tammi, who did so much for me. Several friends have been kind to me to which I’m grateful. I can’t mention them all but I will like to briefly acknowledge Ms. Joan (my supervisor at Kornhauser Library), Renee, Mai’sah, YuTing, nice Brad, mean Brad, Adell, Gina, Debbie, Natasha, Marilyn (deceased), Stephanie, Sadia, the big man Peter, and the one and only big Mac. Finally, special thanks to the wonderful family of Dr. Vanita Farrow who loved, cared and supported me in diverse ways which made my stay in Louisville enjoying, memorable and worthwhile. They gave me a lot of hope and helped me above and beyond what is expected of a family. I’m forever grateful to them. Louisville is a nice town, and as Arnold Schwarzenegger said, ‘I will be back’…someday.”

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