8 ways Duke had an impact worldwide in 2017

December 11, 2017

This is Duke. A university with the ambition and audacity to make a global impact in our new century. A community of people who teach, learn, discover, heal and serve together. Here are a few of the ways we made an impact on the world in 2017.

1. Imagined a malaria-free world

A Duke University professor has joined the fight to rid the world of malaria.

This year, Wendy Prudhomme-O’Meara was among 180 experts to provide new recommendations to eradicate the disease, which affects mostly young children in Sub-Saharan Africa. Their collective recommendations, known as malERA Refresh, set out a research agenda to meet the challenges that stand in the way of achieving a malaria-free world.

2. Worked to bring energy access to the world’s poor

Worldwide, an estimated 1.2 billion people live without electricity. The Energy Access Project at Duke hopes to reduce that number.

The project, which launched this year, will build a research network to leverage expertise in business, public policy and environmental ethics to bring power to people around the world.

“Duke has much to contribute to this fight,” said Jonathan Phillips of Duke’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. “I’m thrilled to be joining this engaged community…to catalyze change on one of the world’s most pressing development challenges.”

3. Joined the fight to save some of the world’s most endangered species

African forest elephants. Snow leopards. Giant pandas. Lemurs. Cheetahs. These are only some of the species Duke researchers hope to save.

With the help of smartphones—and the millions of people who carry them in their pockets—researchers at the Nicholas School of the Environment are monitoring endangered species all over the world.

Their software tool, called ConservationFIT, can “read” user-submitted photos of animal footprints, helping conservationists map and protect endangered animals.

4. Brought improved sanitation to the developing world

Duke engineers are “reinventing the toilet.”

With funding from the Gates Foundation, professor Marc Deshusses and his team have developed a low-cost prototype toilet system for field testing in India, Kenya and the Philippines. Their goal is to bring new solutions to areas where people lack access to basic sanitation services, ultimately reducing the burden of diarrheal diseases. 

5. Made a dent in childhood HIV

The Pratt Pouch—a Duke-created packet of medicines to help prevent HIV in babies born to HIV-positive mothers—has saved thousands of lives in Ecuador, Zambia and Tanzania.

This year, creator Robert Malkin and a team of undergraduate students have joined forces with community partners in Ecuador and Uganda to make the pouch accessible to HIV-positive mothers across the two countries.

“This was a medical application with direct impact, so the stakes were high,” said Judy Zhu, who helped develop the pouch as a student. “[It was] really cool to see the immediate impact that I was able to have on real people.”

6. Took part in a new model of education for a globalized world

Educators from 20 universities in China, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, the United States and Canada gathered at Duke Kunshan University this year to discuss a new educational tradition: melding liberal arts style learning with traditional Asian pedagogy.

This new model of education is at work at Duke Kunshan University, which this year approved its first four-year undergraduate degree program.

7. Gave women access to low-cost cervical cancer screenings

With the help of Duke students and researchers, professor Nimmi Ramanujam developed a handheld device that can detect cervical cancer in minutes.

While traditional cervical screening machines, or colposcopes, cost up to $20,000 to produce, Ramanujam’s alternative “pocket colposcope” can be used in low-resource settings to detect disease at a fraction of the cost.

Ramanujam’s goal? “The mortality rate of cervical cancer,” she says, “should absolutely be zero percent.”

8. Launched an effort to improve global food policy

In 2017 Duke University received $5.9 million in grants to support a new World Food Policy Center. The center will connect researchers and change-makers across food issues including hunger, malnutrition, obesity-related illness, GMOs and the environment.

The center hopes to build a global network of experts to create measurable change in Durham and beyond.