DENTON (UNT), Texas — While growing up in Senegal, Yacine Ndiaye, a recent University of North Texas graduate, heard many stories about young children suffering from disease because their families live in remote villages with little access to healthcare facilities or because the families rely on traditional tribal healers instead of doctors. Her own aunt took her toddler cousin, Anta, to several healers for an enlarged head, and was told that Anta may have been possessed. After a year, Anta went to a hospital for surgery but died soon afterward.
"Every day, thousands of children like Anta, under the age of 5, die of preventable or remediable diseases. Anta’s life, like that of many others, could have been saved had her parents taken her to the hospital early. Every child is entitled to the right to health and education,”"said Ndiaye, who received her bachelor's degree in biochemistry last December.
She will study how to help residents of rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa and other developing nations understand and fight diseases after receiving a $30,000 Rotary Global Grant to attend the University of Geneva this fall and enter the university's master's program in global health. She will enroll in the epidemiology of infectious diseases tract, and hopes to conduct research at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute.
Ndiaye is the sixth UNT student or recent graduate since 2013 to receive a Rotary Global Grant. More than 35 other UNT students and recent graduates have received Rotary Ambassadorial and Rotary Cultural Scholarships since 1998. Ndiaye's Rotary Global Grant is provided by the Rotary Club of Grapevine in Rotary District 5790.
Born in Dakar, Senegal's capital, Ndiaye came to the U.S. in 2010 after graduating from high school to live with a relative in Virginia. She received her associate of science degree from Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria in May 2013 before entering UNT in January 2014. She was in the Honors College and minored in women's and gender studies and biology while earning her biochemistry degree. Ndiaye was the membership coordinator of the UNT chapter of Triota national women's studies honor society and a member of Phi Theta Kappa honor society and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. She was named Honor Scholar of the year.
Ndiaye said the first class she took for her minor, an introductory women's studies course, helped her to better understand "issues surrounding women and minorities, and as those pertained to my personal experiences" in Senegal — from women who didn't use birth control because of their husbands' beliefs to daughters who didn't attend school because their parents thought they should be housewives.
"I have realized the personal importance of women's and children's rights issues and decided to devote my professional career to advocating and fighting for these rights, especially the rights to an education and access to primary healthcare," she said, adding that the University of Geneva's master’' program in global health focuses on interdisciplinary aspects of health as it relates to other issues, such as human trafficking.
At UNT, Ndiaye conducted research in the laboratory of Guido Verbeck, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry. In November 2015, she was among a group of Honors students who presented essays on Richard Wright’s "Native Son" at the American Studies Association of Texas conference. The students also presented their essays at the spring 2016 University Scholars Day, which is hosted by the Honors College, and the essays were published as both a hardcover volume and an e-book in August 2016.
James Duban, associate dean for research and national scholarships in the Honors College and the book's editor, said Ndiaye’s accomplishments are "surpassed only by her commitment to improving the lives of others, via international research."
"The Honors College and UNT are fortunate to have such an excellent student representing UNT on the national and global stage," he said.
Ndiaye volunteered last summer with a nonprofit organization in Senegal that provides first aid kits and medicine to homeless children. She was vice president of the Conversation, a peer mentor program in UNT's Student Health and Wellness Center. Ndiaye has worked as an environmental health technician with the City of Richardson since graduating from UNT.