Being charged by elephants, crossing the Nile River and hiking through an African conflict area with armed guards has humbled Mr. Nick Dowhaniuk. Now, he’s embarking on a two-year journey funded by National Geographic to study community perspectives of public health in Uganda for his dissertation project. Mr. Dowhaniuk hopes to build on his eye-opening experiences from his first trip to Uganda in 2014.
“I had a lot of misconceptions, and I’ll be the first to admit it,” he said. “I definitely had the idea, as a 24-year-old college student, that I knew best. Then I got over there and learned I know nothing.”
Mr. Dowhaniuk is pursuing a Master of Health Science in environmental and global health from the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions, and a PhD in medical geography from the UF College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
With support from National Geographic, he made his first trip to Uganda in 2014 to study the impact of oil development on conservation and nearby communities as a master’s student at the University of New Hampshire. Since then, he has attended conferences, traveled to headquarters in Washington, D.C., is an Explorer for the organization and has had articles and photographs featured on National Geographic media platforms.
With another grant from National Geographic, Mr. Dowhaniuk is traveling back to Uganda this fall, where he will conduct research for up to two years.
“One of the big themes of this research is including the community in every stage of it and not just being somebody from the other side of the world going over and doing what I want, but more letting loose a lot of the decision-making process,” he said.
Mr. Dowhaniuk, an avid photographer, plans to implement photography into his research by giving Ugandans cameras to capture their perspectives of community health issues.
“For me, it’s always been such a big tool to be able to communicate difficult stories and cross culture and linguistic barriers through photography,” he said.