Alumna Provides a Trusted Voice in Science, Health

Jill Weatherhead and her science mentors in a lab
Jill Weatherhead ’05, M.D., Ph.D., a physician-scientist and Director of Medical Education in the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, works in a lab with her mentors, Drs. Peter Hotez and Maria Elena Bottazzi, who are co-chairs in the Department of Pediatrics, Section of Pediatric Tropical Medicine. Photo credit: Baylor College of Medicine.

A Kalamazoo College alumna, key to Baylor College of Medicine’s fight against COVID-19, set a goal of communicating more effectively and regularly with the public about science and health in 2020.

“Little did I know this pandemic would come and science communication would be so critical,” said Jill Weatherhead ’05, M.D., Ph.D., a physician-scientist and Director of Medical Education in the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “Over the past year, I’ve wanted to discuss the pandemic with the public honestly and openly with transparency. I’ve wanted to share scientific knowledge with the community to make sure people are safe and have a better understanding of what’s going on.”

Weatherhead has been very successful with that goal. Even a simple glance at her Twitter handle, @JillWeather, shows evidence of that. Recently, she’s been a resource for scientific publications and Houston-area media outlets regarding subjects such as COVID-19 trends, and the vaccine’s efficacy and safety. She even details her own experience with receiving the vaccine in pictures, video and personal reports.

Jill Weatherhead women in science
Jill Weatherhead ’05 has been a resource for scientific publications and Houston-area media outlets regarding subjects such as COVID-19 trends, and the vaccine’s efficacy and safety.

“Transparency and media communication are really important to show I’m not only talking the talk, but walking the walk,” she said. “I want people to know that I’m doing the same thing and that I’m holding myself to the same standard. Seeing the positives and the negatives of those recommendations are critical to instilling trust in what you’re saying. That doesn’t mean the vaccine process is perfect or that I didn’t have some small side effects. But when the vaccine comes to you, please take it. Then, please continue to wear a mask and social distance. I’m trying to exemplify that.”

Such spotlights make Weatherhead an ideal example of someone the United Nations celebrated on February 11, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, along its theme of “Women Scientists at the Forefront of the Fight Against COVID-19.”

U.N. statistics show that fewer than 30 percent of scientific researchers in the world are women and only about 30 percent of all female students select fields in science, technology, engineering or math to pursue in their higher education. Representation among women is especially low professionally in fields such as information and communication technology at 3 percent; natural science, mathematics and statistics at 5 percent; and engineering at 8 percent.

To change such numbers, the U.N. General Assembly established its international day to celebrate women scientists and build equal access to and participation in science for women and girls. Weatherhead is doing her part as an Infectious Disease expert at Baylor to encourage and support women entering into science especially those starting their educational journeys.

“I think one of the biggest lessons I learned is not to be afraid to challenge yourself and try new things,” Weatherhead said when asked about advice for women interested in scientific disciplines at K. “There are things that are going to be comfortable and things that are going to be uncomfortable at K, so challenge yourself. It’s important to grow and figure out where you see your career going.”

When Weatherhead attended K, trying new things meant a study abroad experience at the Universidad de San Francisco in Ecuador.

“That experience alone really shaped the trajectory of my whole career,” she said. “I worked at an inner-city hospital, and I wrote a thesis on the health inequities caused by poverty in Ecuador. That was the first time where I saw the impact of access to health care, health communication and community outreach. It really opened my eyes to a whole different side of the world that I didn’t know existed. I honestly feel that I came back a different person.”

That experience inspired her interest not only in infectious disease, but tropical medicine, a subspecialty within infectious disease research, focusing on afflictions that most commonly affect people living in extreme poverty within certain climates.

“In order to have these diseases, you need to be living in poverty in areas where there’s poor sanitation and waste management; areas where the diseases can flourish in warm, humid climates,” Weatherhead said. “We see a lot of these infections here in Texas, as well as in other areas along the Gulf Coast where the climate and pockets of poverty support them. My lab focuses on how these infections of poverty lead to long-term, detrimental health consequences in children and adults and aims to develop new interventions to prevent these infections.”

Weatherhead’s efforts and sacrifices clearly benefited Baylor and the Houston area last year and will continue to do so as the pandemic progresses through her direct care of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 and through her community outreach and service.

K helped cement that deep commitment to service.

“I would say my K-Plan was the foundation of my current career,” Weatherhead said. “Without my K-Plan I would not be where I am.”

Luce Fellowship Fuels K Student’s Health-Career Goals

Luce Fellowship Recipient Anthony Diep Rosas
Anthony Diep Rosas ’19 is Kalamazoo College’s first Luce Fellowship recipient.
Photo courtesy of Amanda Bensel.

Anthony Diep Rosas ’19 has accomplished an impressive first for a Kalamazoo College student, earning a prestigious Luce Fellowship that will enable him to live and work in Asia, furthering personal and professional aspirations to improve public health.

Launched by the Henry Luce Foundation, the nationally competitive Luce Scholars Program offers funds, language education and individualized professional placement in Asia for 15 to 18 scholars each year. The program is designed to enhance the understanding of Asia among potential leaders in American society.

This year, Diep Rosas was one of 18 students chosen from 162 applicants. The program attracts applications from college seniors, graduate students and young professionals in many fields who have had limited exposure to Asia. Diep Rosas will hear official word of where he will go as a Luce Scholar in the next couple of months and then spend a year abroad after an eight-day orientation in New York City, which is scheduled after graduation in June.

“For me, there’s beauty in not knowing what to expect,” Diep Rosas said of the uncertainty regarding his destination. “Coming from Los Angeles, especially Compton, to a place like Kalamazoo—it was such a huge shift. K taught me how to be uncomfortable and learn what it means to connect with a different environment. As a result, I appreciate and value difference as a way to catalyze change.”

The change Diep Rosas seeks involves better health outcomes for underserved communities in the U.S., especially communities of color. During his time abroad, he plans to explore how his assigned community in Asia engages its people in developing policies that serve their local needs, an experience he expects will strengthen his efforts at home. After his Luce year, he plans to study medicine and public policy in graduate school. There he hopes to holistically address health disparities by working with patients and community members to tackle the underlying systemic issues that contribute to patient health through equitable policy change.

As a Luce scholar, “I will be able to learn what it means to listen to folks in the community,” said Diep Rosas, a biology major with a concentration in community and global health. “This will teach me to know what it means to build connections. That’s special about Luce. It will do an amazing job helping me learn what it means to champion vulnerability and listen.”

Diep Rosas first came to K as a Posse Scholar, one of 10 students to attend that year from Los Angeles through the Posse Foundation, which provides scholarships and support to outstanding student leaders from diverse backgrounds. Upon learning about Kalamazoo College as a Posse nominee, Diep Rosas was enamored with its name and intrigued by its small-school environment that nurtures community and offers study abroad opportunities.

In his time at K, Diep Rosas has amassed an impressive resume. Among his accomplishments, he works as an administrative assistant with Director of Faculty Grants and Institutional Research Anne Dueweke, Assistant Professor of Sociology Francisco Villegas and Director of Intercultural Student Life Natalia Carvalho-Pinto on beginning qualitative research regarding the racial climate on campus. He received the U.S. Gilman Scholarship to study abroad in Costa Rica. In the Kalamazoo community, he worked with Cradle Kalamazoo and Eliminating Racism and Creating/Celebrating Equity (ERACCE) to reduce Black infant mortality and promote respect for families, women and their children. Diep Rosas was one of the first research fellows at the Arcus Center for Social Justice and he co-founded the Minority Association for Pre-Health Students for students of color with pre-health majors. He served English Professor Bruce Mills as a teaching assistant and Residential Life as a resident assistant. He was also awarded the Jon L. Stryker Future Leaders scholarship, and was recently recognized at the annual Senior Leadership Recognition Awards.

Diep Rosas credits people and resources including Dueweke, his recommenders and mentors, the Intercultural Center, the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, and the Center for International Programs for their work in helping him receive these opportunities, the Luce Fellowship in particular. These opportunities have “inspired me to have a vision for K after I graduate,” Diep Rosas said. “I think about my own story and where I would be had I not gone to K, because K has provided me with the support and resources I’ve needed. I would love to support others, and I would encourage them to reach out to me and [Dueweke] about the Luce Fellowship program especially, because I think it speaks loudly to how K nurtures a student’s education.”

Avon Helps K Promote Healthy Dating Relationships

World map shows sites of schools and organizations that have received Green Dot training
Sites of schools and organizations that have received Green Dot training

The Avon Foundation for Women has awarded Kalamazoo College a $5,000 grant to promote healthy sexual relationships on campus.  The grant will allow K to begin training in the Green Dot Campaign.

The Green Dot Campaign is a new way to help prevent sexual assault. The program is designed to teach bystanders and peers how to help intervene in an unsafe situation.

Deb Rose, one of K’s counseling psychologists, applied for the grant last summer. She will be attending a training course  this summer, where she will learn how to use the Green Dot strategy and how to teach it to groups and student organizations on campus.

Dean Sarah Westfall said, “National data suggests that on college campuses sexual assault is widely under reported. I think it is true at K as well. No one wants that. The Green Dot Campaign looks at what tools are already available. It makes a lot of sense.”

Dean Westfall hopes to keep the campaign going year round with informative training sessions for everyone, not just student organizations. “The more people who know the program, the better for everyone,” said Westfall.