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Kristen Shirey, MD

Global health rotation takes Med-Psych resident to Kenya

In her fifth and final year of Duke’s combined Internal Medicine-Psychiatry Residency Program, Kristen Shirey spent a three-month Global Health Elective Rotation in Kenya facilitated by the Hubert-Yeargan Center for Gobal Health . A few weeks into the rotation, Kristen shared how the experience shaped her career and her perspective on global mental health.  Kristen has since graduated and is now a faculty member at Duke.
 Kristen Shirey, MD
“I’m based at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret, Kenya, a hospital that serves a catchment area of around 12 million people. In addition to working in the medicine and psychiatry wards at the hospital, I’m working in clinics and doing home visits in several nearby villages.”

“About two years ago, there was a lot of violence in this area following a highly contested election. Thousands of people were displaced from their homes and villages, and many people died. There was a lot of trauma and as a result we’re seeing a lot of PTSD and depression - that’s in addition to the chronic problems that many Kenyans face, including high rates of poverty, HIV, and gender-based violence.”

“It’s pretty intense here - especially in mental health, access to care is a huge issue, not only because there’s a significant shortage of providers and resources, but also because the stigma of mental illness here is enormous. People are humiliated that they have family members with mental illness and hide people away rather than bringing them in to get care.”

“The good news is, through the work of the Hubert-Yeargan Center for Global Health, the Duke Global Health Institute and other incredible institutions and people, I see a lot of positive change happening here and a lot more potential for improvement and for helping people live longer, healthier lives. It has taught me that so much can be done with a lot of patience and a lot of hard work.”

“This rotation has helped me see the many opportunities to develop a career in global health. My experience in Kenya has definitely reinforced my longstanding interest in global health issues. As such, I have decided to join Duke’s Med/Psych faculty and pursue an academic career in medicine and psychiatry. I hope to collaborate with the Hubert-Yeargan Center for Global Health at Duke University and the Duke Global Health Institute to train residents and conduct clinical research in resource-limited settings.”

Kristen Shirey earned her bachelor’s degree in biology at Denison University (2001) and her medical degree at Ohio State University (2005). To prospective residents, she says: “Give Durham a chance! When I was looking at programs, I was worried that Durham would be small and boring compared with bigger cities. To my delight, I have found that in Durham and nearby Chapel Hill and Raleigh there are always good concerts, restaurants, and pubs to explore, as well as beautiful parks with hiking, kayaking and mountain biking just minutes away from the Medical Center. I love it here!”

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