From left, second-year students Jessica Amick, Golda Houndoh and Nadjad Nikabou-Salifou are the winners of the 2017 Hannah Graham Memorial Award. (Contributed photo by Jessica Strang)
Three University of Virginia undergraduates in the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences are this year’s recipients of the Hannah Graham Memorial Award.
Nadjad Nikabou-Salifou and Golda Houndoh will conduct a collaborative, community-focused health impacts study in Lomé, Togo. Jessica Amick will conduct a research project on maternal mortality and morbidity in Rwanda. All second-year students, none has yet declared a major.
The award honors the memory of the late Hannah Graham, a UVA student who was the victim of a homicide in Charlottesville in September 2014. Later that year, her parents announced the creation of the memorial award in honor of their daughter’s potential for positive impact. The award supports students whose priorities include a dedication to the righting of wrongs, a commitment to sustainable change and a zeal for tackling challenges and uncovering new discoveries. Recipients must also have a passion for the French language, as Graham did.
This is the second year the award has been given. Last year, second-year student Claire Romaine received the award for her project, “Epidemiological and Cultural Understanding for the Prevention of Gastric Cancer in Rwanda.”
The award is funded by an endowment established by UVA and supported by the Graham family, friends and work colleagues, as well as UVA alumni and members of the public.
“We would like to congratulate Nadjad, Golda and Jessica,” John and Sue Graham said in announcing the selection. “The work they propose is very exciting, and has the potential to contribute to lasting improvements in health care in Togo and Rwanda. Hannah would have been very proud to do work like this.”
Amick is a prospective global public health major. Her research project, “Maternal Mortality and Morbidity following Cesarean Sections,” was developed in close collaboration with her faculty mentor, Dr. Marcel Durieux of UVA’s School of Medicine, and Paulin Banguti, an anesthesiologist, residency program director and researcher at the University of Rwanda.
Amick will review medical records to help inform future anesthetic education, obstetric interventions and subsequent studies at the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali and collaborating district hospitals.
Nikabou-Salifou and Houndoh, both natives of Togo and also prospective global development studies majors, will work with mentors at Togo’s University Hospital Sylvanus Olympio. They will conduct needs assessments to better understand health care challenges and provide data important to advancing best practices at the hospital.
Their mentors are David Edmunds, a lecturer in global development studies, and Christina Mobley, an assistant professor of history, plus others in medicine associated with the UVA Center for Global Health.
All three winners expressed their excitement at being selected and their gratitude to the Grahams for the foundation’s financial support.
“I am thrilled to find out I got the award and I am more than excited to honor Hannah’s memory this summer,” Amick said. “I hope that this opportunity will allow me to learn more about global health on the ground.”
“It’s just such an honor and it means the world to me and my family,” Houndoh said. “I’ve aspired to go back to Togo ever since I was a child and it’s so exciting to finally be able to make that dream a reality.”
Nikabou-Salifou echoed that sentiment. “One of the greatest gifts growing up in my home country, Togo, was being cared for and loved by the women in my local community. Now at the age of 19, by the grace of the Hannah Graham family, I can express that same love and care by lending aid to a Togolese maternal and neonatal unit,” she said.
“We recently had the great pleasure to meet Nadjad, Golda and Jessica,” the Grahams said. “All three expressed a level of passion and commitment to their projects that we found very exciting, and we were delighted that through the generosity of the donors we can support these three awardees this year.
“We thank all applicants for their submissions. We also would like to thank the donors, and the UVA staff and faculty, without whose efforts these awards could not be made.”