Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies (CHRHS)
Kethural Manokaran MPH/MPA '23

Student Spotlight: Kethural Manokaran MPH/MPA '23

1. What inspired your interest in human rights and humanitarian research? What current CHRHS research project are you involved with?

Dr. Jennifer Leaning, a scholar on health and human rights, spoke about law and human rights in the context of human rights violations in Syria during my junior year at Wellesley College. Dr. Leaning’s lecture first introduced me to the intersections of health, law, and human rights, and I was eager to learn more.

At CHRHS, I am involved with the ACMC Project that examines civil-military-police coordination in the US’ national response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The US case study is part of a comparative study of national responses to COVID-19 that also includes New Zealand and Australia. My work includes identifying decision-making thresholds for civil-military coordination in the US’ COVID-19 response. I am excited to now transition into the second phase of the project as we start our key informant interviews.

2. Which of Watson’s resources have you found most useful in your research and in your time at Brown?

Dr. Alexandria Nylen, who leads the US case study for the ACMC Project, has been a patient mentor, teaching me about research-oriented policy analysis and qualitative research. Attending Watson lectures at the intersection of public health and public affairs has allowed me to further explore my academic interests as a MPH/MPA student. I studied South Asia Studies in college and am excited to see all the wonderful programming at the Center for Contemporary South Asia as well. The MPH/MPA Dual Degree Program leadership continues to support me as I plan my concentration courses and develop an MPH thesis topic that combines my interests in global health systems and policy.

3. What did you do before graduate school and how did you apply it to your work with CHRHS? 

I was part of the Primary Health Care Team at Ariadne Labs at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital before grad school. Our work aimed to strengthen primary health care (PHC) systems globally, and my projects focused on synthesizing evidence to develop strategies and measurement tools, such as the Vital Signs Profiles, to improve PHC. One specific project focused on how PHC may facilitate an equitable approach to COVID-19 vaccination, and how COVID-19 vaccination may be leveraged to strengthen PHC systems. The health systems knowledge I gained at Ariadne has been especially valuable as I study the US' national response to COVID-19 for the ACMC Project.

4. What do you envision yourself doing after leaving Brown? How has the work you have done with the CHRHS shaped your academic and professional goals?

I envision myself working in global health systems, ideally at the national level. My research interests include health systems in South Asia, and learning and reading about CHRHS’ work in health and human rights across the subcontinent has been especially valuable. My work for the ACMC Project has demonstrated that I should consider laws and policies and their impacts on health care delivery in my future work, and has allowed me to think about how and whom we train to deliver public health programs, such as the mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign. Most of my past research is quantitative, and I am grateful to develop qualitative research skills through the ACMC Project, as well.