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International Health

Tomoka Nakamura, MSPH '15

Global Disease Epidemiology and Control

Tomoka and Katz

Tomoka Nakamura (right) and her advisor, Professor Joanne Katz in Nepal.

September 2015


Current position

Biostatistician/Epidemiologist, PATH (Seattle, WA)

Job description

I am on a team called DIAMETER (Diagnostics for Malaria Elimination Toward Eradication) under the department of PATH's Diagnostics Global Program, which makes appropriate diagnostic technologies available, broadly accessible, and integrated within health systems in low-resource settings. I am involved in data management, statistical analysis, manuscript drafting, and data visualization based on clinical blood samples we get from study volunteers who may potentially be infected with malaria. Also with my laboratory science background, I perform experiments at the lab bench. With samples retrieved from Southeast Asia to Africa, we are trying to develop effective diagnostic tools that especially target those who are infected with malaria but are asymptomatic. 

Any advice to students considering the program

I would recommend this program to anyone who's interested not only in epidemiology but in international health as a whole. Because GDEC is more focused on the quantitative side of public health, many of my classmates and I had a science/medicine background, and this program tied in nicely with our background and experiences we had before coming to JHSPH. However, since we were required to take different classes across the department and the entire school, we were able to be trained in both the quantitative and qualitative aspects of the field.   

How the GDEC program prepared me for my current job

I found the methods classes to be the most helpful for my current position. Having a strong epidemiology and biostatistics training is a great plus because these are the skills that are hard to gain outside of school and valued greatly in public health. My practicum experience in Nepal and at WHO in Geneva, Switzerland, were also valuable for me to experience what it's really like to utilize my skills in the field and at an intergovernmental organization. 

Degree program highlight

The opportunities I had abroad during my practicum were definitely my highlights of the program. In Nepal (through the Global Health Established Field Placement), I had the chance to work with my advisor and mentor, Dr. Joanne Katz, as well as the local staff in Nepal and other fantastic professors at JHSPH on several randomized controlled trials that were being conducted. In Geneva, I was a VIEW Scholar (Vaccine Internship Experience at WHO, now called PAVE) through Hopkins and interned at WHO in vaccines. If I weren't at Hopkins, I would not have had these opportunities that solidified my decision in pursuing this field for my career.