Baumgartner applies social work skills to global health research

Joy Noel Baumgartner, MSSW ‘99
Associate Director and Researcher, Evidence Lab, Duke Global Health Institute

Joy Noel Baumgartner pursued a master’s degree in social work, eager to be in a profession that focused on social justice and reducing social and health inequities. After earning a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Public Health, she worked for an international development agency, managing a variety of global health research projects that implemented and evaluated health interventions in Tanzania, India, Jamaica, Uganda and South Africa. Baumgartner is now a researcher at and Associate Director at the Duke Global Health Institute Evidence Lab, which conducts and improves evaluation methods for global health policies and programs.


What made you want to come to the School of Social Work? 

I was looking for a strong program in child welfare and I wanted a university with a strong African Studies Program (I worked in African Studies as part of work-study as an MSSW student and I received a summer Foreign Language Area Studies scholarship to study Swahili). Half-way through my MSSW program, I switched concentrations to Mental Health—and luckily, UW-Madison had one of the best community mental health training programs in the country.


Walk us through a typical day in the life at your job. 

There are many global health programs that benefit from rigorous evaluations regarding the effectiveness of their programs. Currently, I work with local non-governmental organizations, U.S. Agency for International Development-funded programs and Duke University partners to design, implement and evaluate health interventions in low-income countries. I am working with colleagues in Zambia to develop and evaluate an intervention to integrate depression care into HIV care and treatment services for HIV+ clients. Creating integrated services helps clients on multiple levels, treating their health needs more comprehensively and efficiently. Plus, physical health improves with good mental health. 


Global health is becoming a popular career path and social workers have some valuable skills that are highly relevant.

How has your School of Social Work education prepared you for both your past jobs and your current job?

I have skills and a perspective informed by the School of Social Work that influences my work every day:  an ecosystem perspective for both designing programs and evaluations; being inclusive of and understanding the influence of families for health-related interventions; and group counseling skills. What we call “capacity building” in development and public health work has always been a priority for social work. For my job specifically, I work together with local counterparts to build their research capacity with skills such as qualitative and quantitative data collection, data analysis, paper-writing, grant writing and ethics training. Global health is becoming a popular career path and social workers have some valuable skills that are highly relevant.

Last edited by karnaky on Tuesday, February 03, 2015 | Printer Friendly Version