Emory AAU partnership produces first graduate

Woodruff Health Sciences Center | July 26, 2019

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Fekadu Aga (L) and fellow PhD student Daniel Mengistu (R)

Just hours before Fekadu Aga, MSN was set to present the defense of his dissertation, a coup attempt resulting in the death of four officials changed his plans. The attack took place in Ethiopia, Africa’s second-largest country by population and the home of Addis Ababa University (AAU). Despite this unique hurdle along the way, Aga presented his defense two weeks later, becoming the first student to successfully complete Ethiopia’s first PhD program in Nursing.

His path began in 2015, when Emory School of Nursing and Addis Ababa University (AAU) signed an agreement to establish Ethiopia’s first nursing doctoral program. Four years later, Aga is set to graduate in December as the program’s first success story. An AAU faculty member and one of 11 students currently enrolled in the program, Aga visited Emory University last summer for a four-week intensive writing program geared towards completing his dissertation. He notably earned the Vanderbilt-Emory-Cornell-Duke (VECD) Fogarty Global Health Program for Fellows and Scholars Award which began funding his postdoctoral fellowship project July 1, 2019.

“This is really meaningful to me because he’s worked so hard and will make a great contribution to science by addressing important health issues faced by the Ethiopian population such as chronic co-morbid conditions,” says program coordinator Rebecca Gary PhD, RN, FAHA, FAAN. “He has been a stellar student and really exceeded all of our expectations submitting four publications before he defended his dissertation with two already accepted by competitive, respected journals in the US.”

The project, titled “Improving Self-Care Behaviors and Outcomes in Type 2 Diabetes Patients with and without Comorbid Heart Failure,” was inspired by the lack of research surrounding Type 2 diabetes and comorbid heart failure, diseases common in Ethiopia. Aga hopes to improve health outcomes and prevent or delay the development or progression of heart failure in those with Type 2 diabetes through the implementation of a novel self-care intervention in settings with limited resources. Aga also plans to take on the director role of the PhD program in Ethiopia. Gary mentions how great he will fit into the position due to his familiarity with the goals of the program, along with his excellent mentorship skills.

The PhD program expands on Emory’s existing presence in Ethiopia. It serves as one of several projects sponsored by Emory’s Office of Global Strategy and Initiatives and seeks to improve the quality of education within the country and prepare nurses to serve with the nation’s health ministry, research institutions and universities.