The Road Trip to Health Never Ends

Iris Parshley
Class of 2023, Master of Science in Global Health Program at Duke Kunshan University

Iris Parshley took three different ways in three different locations to complete her MSc Global Health study: online learning for the first semester in 2021 while working part-time in Washington States, at Duke University campus of North Carolina for the 2022 spring semester, and at Duke Kunshan Campus in China since fall 2022 till her graduation.

Recalling her unique two-year experiences in the program, the DKU Chancellor’s scholarship holder quoted an ancient Chinese proverb‘千里之行,始于足下’(A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step).

China is Iris’s blood of origin, though she grew up in the United States. She spent six months in Nanjing during her undergraduate program and wished to return to China again. She first applied for a language teaching position in China but did not make it due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Then I noticed the re-opening of student visas in 2021. This was a great signal. I applied for the DKU MSc Global Health program, which is a perfect combination for me – a graduate degree and experience in China.”

She received a warm welcome from the Duke Kunshan community and the Global Health Research Center when she eventually arrived in October 2022. Besides coursework and thesis writing, she traveled across China to discover the beautiful natural and cultural resorts, taste authentic food, and connect with friendly people.

“My Chinese is good enough to cope with the daily conversation, which made my life in China much easier.”

During her time in the program, Iris was also actively engaged in different research projects. She took the role of graduate research assistant, teaching assistant for an undergraduate course, and co-project manager for OCEAN, a Duke-Bass Connections funded project on community hypertension control in Nepal.

Iris with her classmates at DKU

“All these experiences made me stand out when applying for my current job.” She is now working as a program manager and Foundation Executive Director for Childhood Cancer & Leukemia International Consortium (CLIC), a non-profit global health research organization based in Minneapolis, United States.

CLIC was looking for someone who had international experience, was able to conduct cross-cultural communication, and knew how a typical healthcare research project runs. Now, her daily job is to keep the cross-country, collaborated projects on track.

This is the first step in her dream pursuit of a global health career, and she plans to be more involved in research work and data analysis for her future endeavors.

Iris with her team at CLIC

She shared a road trip experience and used it as an analogy for life. It was a 4000-mile journey from her home in Washington State to Duke University campus in North Carolina. She needed to replace her car’s brakes in Colorado following snow plows up and down the Rocky Mountain Range. Her car caught fire in Oklahoma in the middle of a hot day. And even with GPS, she missed a few turns.

Despite these struggles, she had a great adventure: “Got to see the beautiful starry night sky in the plains in Kansas, and caught up in-person with lots of friends and family.”

“There will always be more road ahead. I want to encourage everyone to plan your journey, set goals, look forward to the next stop, and take pit-stops when needed. Help others along the way when you can and keep in contact with the people you meet from all your life’s adventures.”