The whip scorpion, or amblypygi, opened the world of ecology to Hanna Ehrlich when she went to Costa Rica for an undergraduate research internship. Likewise, the world of epidemiology opened to her while studying cholera in south India with a modeling group from Tufts.
Now a 4th year doctoral student, Hanna has combined these interests and is working in Professor Sunil Parikh’s lab and studying malaria surveillance and drug resistance. She chose to pursue a doctorate in the Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases rather than veterinary medicine as she’d originally planned to foster the broad interdisciplinary perspective essential to solving health issues at the population level.
Antimicrobial resistance is a particularly tricky problem with malarial drugs. Indeed, there is only one effective drug left on the market for the mosquito-borne disease, artemisinin, and it is the most widely-administered drug worldwide. Since 2006, researchers have begun to see drug resistance emerging against artemisinin in southeast Asia. If that spreads to Africa, where 90 percent of deaths from malaria occur, it would be disastrous, says Hanna.
Hanna’s work focuses on improving the efficiency of surveillance systems that track the spread of drug resistant malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. She uses creative field approaches as well as spatial modeling to improve monitoring efforts and strengthen inter-regional collaborations. Her research additionally aims to understand some of the risk factors in transmitting drug resistant malaria strains in Burkina Faso.
Hanna is also particularly interested in health equity and the environment. In her time at Yale she has been a fellow with the Global Health and Justice Partnership, the Climate Change and Health Initiative, and a leader of the student organization, Health and Environment at Yale. Her work has been rounded out through coursework in climate and land use issues, evolutionary biology, environmental humanities, and French, which is spoken through much of sub-Saharan Africa.
Hanna was recently elected to the Board of Directors for the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, by some metrics the largest international scientific society for global health, as its student representative where she hopes to engage in issues of equity in infectious disease research and global health.