Scholar Spotlight: Katrin Fabian

Oct 30, 2020


The people [at HAI] seemed like they have a similar mindset that I do, which is viewing global health in a critical way, understanding the legacy of imperialism […] and finding ways to engage [that are] conscious and new.”


Katrin Fabian is a PhD candidate in the University of Washington’s Department of Global Health Implementation Science Program and HAI’s most recent Scholar-in-Residence.  Like many of HAI’s staff, volunteers, and supporters, Katrin was first introduced to HAI while pursuing an MPH at the University of Washington’s Department of Global Health—where many HAI technical advisors and staff teach and advise.

“I knew that HAI was an organization I wanted to be involved with because of the people who work there. […] The people seemed like they have a similar mindset that I do, which is viewing global health in a critical way, understanding the legacy of imperialism […] and finding ways to engage [that are] conscious and new.”

Following a background of both professional and academic pursuits in mental health care, Katrin conducted her Master’s thesis work in Liberia, with support from her academic advisor, HAI Technical Advisor Brad Wagenaar. Primarily qualitative in nature, Katrin’s research focused on how mental health is communicated in local Liberian communities, with implications for adapting clinical interventions for cultural relevancy.  Her thesis (see callout box on right) was published in Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry in 2018, and contributed to her receiving the Gilbert S. Omenn Award for Academic Excellence from the UW School of Public Health.

In the first year of her PhD program, Katrin is not only learning the theory of global health implementation science, but also building practical experience with the research methodology while contributing to HAI’s SAIA-Mental Health project.

“[The SAIA-Mental Health] project was a good deep dive into implementation science and how it works in practice.  Though I have worked remotely in an analyst and writing role, I appreciate seeing the project success through the data, and being able to be a part of a very participatory team to help analyze and communicate those results.”

Katrin also expressed that working on the project has been a good opportunity to gain clarity on the real potential of using implementation science in global health and helping others to see that same impact:

“Sometimes when you first here about systems-level interventions, such as SAIA, they can feel nebulous and abstract. I find this a lot when I try and tell people what I do who are not in public health. You start to explain implementation science and their eyes glaze over.  That was the challenge of […] this whole project, to characterize all the things we did in a way that was easily translatable as gains in clinical outcomes, like adherence to medication or returning to visits.”

Katrin and study lead, Brad Wagenaar, along with co-authors from HAI, Mozambique’s Ministry of Health, UW, and the University of Eduardo Mondlane, managed to find a successful approach, which you can read more about in a November 2020 article published in Health Policy & Planning (see callout box on left).

But working overseas isn’t her sole focus. Katrin is also interested applying implementation science and the global health skillset she has gained at UW and through collaborations with HAI, a little closer to home.

“I’ve spent more energy recently focusing on domestic projects, and how some of the lessons learned from low and middle-income countries can translate into the context of where I live and the communities that I’m part of.”

And the implications could be big.

“There’s more and more of a recognition that things are based on systems. I think people are seeing that in the racial justice movement, the way we think about politics, everything. It reinforces the point that being able to translate these nebulous, complex concepts into real, tangible things that demonstrate effectiveness is really important, not just in the context of mental health in Mozambique, but everywhere.”

We are so excited to have a global-to-local, big picture doer like Katrin as part of our HAI family!



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