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K-State Today

October 24, 2019

Q&A with Fulbright Scholar Anna Ralph

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

As part of the national Fulbright Scholar Program, K-State's Oz to Oz Fulbright Scholars Seminar brings senior research scholars to campus to build and develop international partnerships and friendships. Free and open to the public, Anna Ralph will present "Cyclones and Crocodiles: Tropical Medicine Challenges in Northern Australia" as part of the Oz to Oz Fulbright Scholars Seminar at 3 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, in the Davis Theater at the Berney Family Welcome Center.  

This Q&A with Ralph gives the university community an opportunity to learn more about the scholar speaker and reinforces the importance of mutual understanding and education of diverse research topics.   

What is your name, title and institution?

Anna Ralph, director of Global and Tropical Health at Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin, Australia, and practicing medical specialist in general medicine and infectious diseases at Royal Darwin Hospital. 

What is your field of study?  

I'm an infectious diseases physician and I work in a hospital as a clinician looking after patients with various communicable diseases. I have three research areas: Tuberculosis, Acute rheumatic fever, and research into improving intercultural communication between doctors and other health care providers and aboriginal patients. 

I live and work in northern tropical Australia where we have some really interesting endemic bacterial pathogens and other infections that you don't see in other parts of Australia and we have a large indigenous population in Northern Australia. It's a really great place to work as an infectious diseases physician and a great place to do research that can have a genuine clinical impact. 

How is the Fulbright scholarship helping you increase knowledge of this area?   

My main goal in doing this Fulbright scholarship has been to learn more about implementation research approaches. Implementation research in clinical medicine is a somewhat new area and can also be a bit nebulous in people's minds. The group I have been working with at the University of California, San Francisco are real experts in implementation research, they apply it to their TB field site in Uganda where they are doing TB research. I was able to work with this group to look at their research methodologies and learn how I can use those approaches in my three research areas. It has been a really fruitful and helpful time for me to apply those methods to my grant writing. 

What drives your interest in your research?  

I think I've always been really interested in the health of disadvantaged populations. TB and rheumatic fever tend to be diseases that have been really well dealt with in high-income settings and we sort of see them as diseases of the past. But they are still real problems in low resource settings or in communities that are affected by poverty and the northern Australia aboriginal population certainly experiences these diseases at higher rates than the rest of Australia so I just have a real passion about working with more impoverished populations on controlling communicable diseases. 

Why did you accept the invitation to visit K-State?  

I was really intrigued by the Oz to Oz program and the huge amount of enthusiasm expressed by the researchers and the program managers here at K-State. My research is really quite different from the research that goes on here, but the fact that I was invited and embraced really displays this really interesting open-mindedness and willingness to collaborate that I think is sort of rare at some institutes. I also know that no matter how different your research fields might be from whoever you are having a conversation with, you'll always learn something and get something out of every conversation whether it's the way you might run your team differently or a new idea that just might not have come up had you been not having a conversation with someone so far outside of your field. I've never been to Kansas before so that's really fascinating and I've also learned that there are some real parallels between Kansas and Darwin.

Read a Q&A with visiting Fulbright Scholar Vinita Godinho in Friday's issue.

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