Connecticut College Magazine · Fall 2005


Mach Arom ´89: Rebuilding hope for Thai tsunami victims

Kathryn Bard ´68: Somewhere in Egypt

Who cares about Haiti?

Venturing into Iran: Beyond the warning

Gloria Hollister Anable ’24: Into the deep

Gaida Ozols Fuller ´74: Six months in Uganda

Sarah Trapido ´08: Going 13,000 miles on veggie oil

Yoko Shimada ´99: Fighting the war on AIDS in East Africa

The extra mile: Journeys that make a difference

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Yoko Shimada ´99: Fighting the war on AIDS in East Africa

Yoko Shimada ´99: Fighting the war on AIDS in East Africa
Yoko Shimada ´99 trained staff from a series of African hospitals and clinics on how to use medical software to track patient information.

by Julie Novak

Yoko Shimada ’99 is no stranger to the physical and emotional stress a terminal illness can have on the afflicted and their loved ones. A month after graduating from Connecticut College, her father died after a 10-year battle with hepatitis C, a disease he contracted through a blood transfusion in his native Japan. At the time, the Japanese government did not require screening for the disease and there is still no cure.

Today, with her father’s memory in the forefront of her mind, Shimada has made a career of helping others in waging the war against HIV/AIDS and other preventable diseases. “Helping others with a terminal illness like cancer and AIDS live happily for the remainder of their lives helps me ease my own pain,” she said.

Working for Futures Group International, a company that helps design public health programs for developing countries, Shimada spends 50 percent of her time traveling the globe to help improve the quality of health care in countries that need it most. She is a senior research associate at the company, and is primarily working on AIDS Relief, a project funded through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The project is designed to boost medical treatment with a cost-effective approach and treat 137,000 people over the next five years. She is responsible for helping hospitals in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania improve their health management information systems to capture accurate and timely data required by the U.S. government.

Shimada meets with doctors, nurses and hospital staff one-on-one and also leads training programs. “When I tell people what I do, it is difficult to explain what a ‘monitoring and evaluation’ professional is. I think my job is to build the capacity to understand the importance of data and to teach people that it is impossible to plan for the future and treat patients effectively without knowing what’s happening in the program and with patients,” she said.

Shimada got her start in the field as a volunteer. After her father’s death, she worked as a research assistant for the Center for AIDS Research in New York City in the evenings and on weekends. (By day, she worked as a legal assistant in a law firm.) She also studied to become a certified hospice volunteer.

Shimada’s volunteer experience and desire to help others in an international setting — she was born and raised in Japan — led her to pursue a Master’s degree in Health Science at Johns Hopkins University. She spent her second year of the program in Chennai, India conducting AIDS research. Prior to joining Futures Group, she worked for another company analyzing research, but it wasn’t the right fit. “While it was an extremely valuable experience, it made me realize that I needed to spend time in the field,” she said. “I love interacting with the staff and patients at the hospital. It’s my favorite aspect of my job.”

Shimada chose CC because she was attracted to the tight-knit familial atmosphere of the Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts (CISLA) program. A CISLA scholar, she also studied psychology and German.

Shimada lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband Collin Keeney ’98.

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