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Alumni Profile: Kansas Sparks
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Alumni Profile: Kansas Sparks

International Malaria Research in Thailand


Kansas Sparks graduated this past summer with a dual degree in Epidemiology and Global Health Practice from the USF College of Public Health. While finishing up her degree at USF, Kansas was able to gain valuable international field experiences in global health practice by traveling to Thailand to do international malaria research.

As a student at the College of Public Health, Kansas began working for Dr. Dennis Kyle in his malaria research lab. Because of Dr. Kyle’s many connections to colleagues and friends researching in international settings, Kansas received an opportunity to travel to Thailand alongside her coursework at the college and conduct research with the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit (SMRU). Her first trip to work with SMRU was in May of 2010 to fulfill her international field work requirement. After her graduation in the summer, Kansas was able to return for a second trip to Thailand to continue research with SMRU from October through December of 2010.

Shoklo Malaria Research Unit, located in Mae Sot, Thailand, is a collaboration between the Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University in Bangkok, and the University of Oxford, UK. Their main focus is to seek to reduce the impact of multi-drug resistant malaria and other infectious diseases in the uprooted Burmese population of Tak Province, Thailand. Due to the burden on the existing health structures in Burma worsened by the quasi absence of health care, patients have been forced to travel long distances to get treatment in Thailand. This situation has created ideal conditions for the transmission of infectious diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and others, but has also created ideal conditions for students and researchers to learn more about public health globally while conducting malaria and other infectious disease research.


Kansas is tremendously thankful for the opportunity she received to travel and gain invaluable experience researching oversees in this way. Through her work in Thailand, Kansas was able to acquire lots of experience not only for her degree but also toward her future long-term goals to go to medical school and become a doctor. During her stay there she was able to conduct research in the labs and also observe patients in the clinics as well. Kansas enjoys research, but she is even more passionate about the end product of that research, helping the individual patient and the population as a whole.

During her most recent stay in Thailand, Kansas began the application process to medical school, beginning her new journey to becoming a medical doctor. While continuing this application process, Kansas is home at USF continuing her malaria research in the Kyle Lab. "My graduate degree at USF has not only been engaging but also beyond rewarding,” Kansas states. "My experiences in Thailand have taught me that the fundamentals of public health are simple yet the execution can be challenging. I now have a greater appreciation for this and the importance of public health research. The opportunities I have had during my Master's at USF have only amplified my desire to continue to practice public health in areas of need no matter where my future career takes me."

For more information about malaria research and SMRU, visit


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