Duke Junior Kristen Lee Selected As Truman Scholar

Truman Scholars are chosen on the basis of their leadership potential, high academic achievement and a commitment to a career in public service

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Kristen Lee, a junior at Duke University who has been actively involved in women's health and gender equality issues, is one of 54 students selected this year as a Truman Scholar.

Truman Scholars are chosen on the basis of their leadership potential, high academic achievement and a commitment to a career in public service and advocacy sectors.

"We at Duke are delighted that Kristen has been named a 2012 Truman Scholar," said Duke President Richard H. Brodhead. "With her strong interest in women's health and serving disadvantaged populations, Kristen truly exemplifies Duke's commitment to promote knowledge in the service of society. The Truman Scholarship provides a wonderful opportunity for Kristen to start down the path of public service."

Lee, a Baldwin Scholar at Duke, said she applied for the scholarship because she saw it as a natural fit with the work she has done while at Duke.

"I want to be a change agent," said Lee, who is from Arlington Heights, Ill. "The Truman program emphasizes service and being a public servant in the framework of national policy. My focus is on research. I'm looking at how data should inform policy rather than the other way around. In order for policy to be effective, we have to understand the people the policies will affect. Understanding the community is important."

During a DukeEngage summer project in Ecuador, Lee created gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS workshops for communities along the Ecuador-Colombia border. Her work has included research on racial inequalities in higher education and sex trafficking. She has worked with sickle cell patients for three years in the Sickle Cell Transition Program at Duke Children's Hospital.

Chosen scholars receive $30,000 for graduate study, priority admission and supplemental financial aid to top graduate programs. A sociology major, Lee intends to pursue a joint medical degree/master's in public health program. After graduate studies, Lee would like to become a women's health center physician who works with underinsured patients and special populations. Eventually she hopes to be the director of a women's reproductive health clinic or a community health clinic.

"Kristen's dedication to being a 'change agent' in the arena of women's health is evidenced everywhere in her application," said Melissa Malouf, director of Duke's Office of Undergraduate Scholars and Fellows. "And by 'health,' she means a healthy body image, an active, productive relationship with mentors and roles models, and control of decision-making.

"Kristen has the heart and the mind to achieve these goals, to discover new ones, to be a leader in collective action, and to change lives," Malouf added.

Lee is currently in Beijing, with Duke's Global Semester Abroad program. She's researching conditions for women working in Chinese factories and other development and health issues.