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Meet an Alumna: Gabby Flynn

Posted by on Friday, February 2, 2018 in Alumni, .

Gabriella Flynn 

M.Ed. 2015

Program Coordinator, Columbia University Medical Center, Program for Global and Population Health


“The way that CDA prepares you to be a reflective, generative practitioner who works with the community interests in mind is something that is invaluable to my work now as a researcher.”

Q: Where are you from originally and what did you do before coming to Vanderbilt?

I am originally from Tampa, Florida. I had just finished my undergraduate degree at Vanderbilt in Human and Organizational Development before applying to the CDA program. I chose the CDA program because I knew that I wanted to further my education in Community Development, specifically focusing on international development.

Q: What were you involved with during your time at Vanderbilt?

For my practicum, I worked as a research assistant in a quality improvement project between Niño’s Primeros en Salud  (NPS) in Consuelo, Dominican Republic, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Peabody College, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The primary objective of this project was to assess the cultural relevancy of the community education tools used by NPS to address the malnutrition spectrum. I presented the research findings at the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health and the Consortium of Universities for Global Health in 2015.

While working on the quality improvement project at NPS, we noticed the health promoters discussing the lack of social networks and safe spaces for girls to promote positive well-being, self-efficacy, and early pregnancy prevention. These conversations motivated my final project of conducting a community assessment that analyzed sports as a means of development and engagement for girls.

Another activity that I was involved in was Project Pyramid at the Owen Business School. Through the course, I was able to travel to Xela, Guatemala and partner with the Primeros Pasos Clinic.

Q: How did you get to where you are now?

While I was in Consuelo during my time in the CDA program, I met a Pediatric Fellow who was on rotation at Niños Primeros en Salud and Clínica de Familia La Romana, a community health clinic serving HIV adults and pediatrics. During one of my trips to Consuelo, she invited me to La Romana to learn about Clínica de Familia and their adolescent and community health programs. After having lunch with the director of the clinic, I knew that I wanted to work there.

I applied for various grants and was awarded a grant from the InterExchange Foundation. After graduation, I moved to La Romana and worked at Clínica de Familia as the Program Development and Evaluation Research Fellow. As a fellow, I worked on various monitoring and evaluation projects, including implementing new health education programs around toxic stress in the adolescent health clinic. While working at the clinic, which is connected to Columbia University Medical Center, I was recruited to join the New York-side of operations as the program coordinator for the Program for Global and Population Health. As the program coordinator, I now help to coordinate health sciences student practicums, facilitate global health courses, and coordinate our longitudinal Zika virus study in La Romana.

Q: How did the CDA program prepare you for that career?

I think I first became interested in global health through my practicum. It was through that experience that I realized I wanted to work in Latin America and the Caribbean focusing on maternal, child, and adolescent health disparities. I really enjoyed the work I did for my final project and practicum in the Dominican Republic and wanted to continue to pursue a career in global health research. This led me to applying for the Certificate in Global Health at the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health (VIGH).

In addition to my experiences and coursework, the way that CDA prepares you to be a reflective, generative practitioner who works with the community interests in mind is something that is invaluable to my work now as a researcher. CDA’s interdisciplinary nature has also allowed me to be able to work with people from a variety of disciplines and understand each person’s perspective.

Q: What advice do you have for CDA students and for others who want to get involved in your field?

My main advice is to be sure to use all of the opportunities that being at Vanderbilt and in an interdisciplinary, collaborative program like CDA has to offer. As my path changed from a focus on international development to a focus on global health, my advisors and the opportunity to enroll in classes from various disciplines helped me to prepare for my new career path.


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