SIT Kenya student earns top award for maternal health research

Announcement Date: March 21, 2023   |   Research, SIT Study Abroad

SIT alumna Kiya Henderson of Pomona College has earned the coveted 2022 Award for Academic Achievement Abroad for her independent research on maternal mortality, which she conducted while on SIT’s Kenya: Global Health and Human Rights program.

The award recognizes meaningful, rigorous academic projects that occur as part of education abroad programs. It includes a $500 cash prize.

Henderson’s research presentation was titled, “A Retrospective Analysis of Maternal Mortality in Kisumu, Kenya from March 2021 to March 2022: The Effects of Proximal and Distal Factors on Maternal Outcomes.” She said her senior thesis at Pomona will be another iteration of her study.

“[Kiya] distinguished herself through her critical analyses of the abstracted data during the one-year time study period,” said SIT Kenya Academic Director Dr. Steve Wandiga. “Overall, her excellence in academics and [as a] team leader among her peers was outstanding.”

Henderson, who is from New Orleans, is an Africana studies major completing pre-med coursework. She plans to work in maternal and fetal medicine and to open her own practice focusing on holistic health care for black and brown women. Currently, she serves as a study abroad peer mentor at Pomona College.

She chose the SIT program because it represented “the perfect marriage between my two main interests" and said the independent research component of the program was important to her.

Kiya Henderson presents her research during a virtual awards ceremony.

During a March 16 virtual awards ceremony, Henderson said she chose to research maternal mortality because it is one of the major causes of death among women of reproductive age. “Specifically within the United States, black women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than their white counterparts.”

Asked about one of the most impactful moments on her program, she said,“For a long time, I knew that I wanted to work in medicine but I wasn’t sure specifically where I wanted to work, and as I learned more about maternal mortality within the U.S.  that influenced my decision to work in maternal medicine. So being in [the women and children’s health section in Kisumu County Referral Hospital] for the very first time … I had this feeling that this is what I’m supposed to be doing; this is where I’m supposed to be,” she said.

Henderson will be recognized on March 24 during the 19th Annual Forum Conference in Seattle.