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Humphrey Alumni Gather at NIDA Forum

Earlier this summer, Judy Gibson, director of the Humphrey Fellowship Program at the Institute of International Education, had the opportunity to meet with Humphrey alumni who were attending the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) annual conference in Puerto Rico. Nearly 20 Humphrey Alumni were in attendance at the four-day forum which focused on building international collaborative research on drug abuse. During the conference, Humphrey alumni sat down with Ms. Gibson to discuss the impact that the Humphrey Program has had on their career trajectories. They also shared some of their fondest memories from their Humphrey years.

One alumnus who shared his experiences was Ivan Yamil Quevedo Labbe, a 2011-2012 Humphrey Fellow at Johns Hopkins University. Upon his return to Chile, Yamil acquired a new professional position with a private rehabilitation center in Chile. He also started as a professor in the Psychiatry Department at the University of Chile. Yamil had always wanted to hold an academic position; in fact, on his application for the Humphrey Fellowship Program, he indicated that his professional goal was to become a teacher within five years’. Yamil accomplished his goal just months after his fellowship year and ­­­­is now celebrating two years in his position. He says that what he learned during his Humphrey Fellowship influences the way that he instructs his students. While in the U.S he was forced to think “proactively and creatively;” he now tries to replicate that way of thinking in his students.

Valeriy Ryabukha, a Humphrey Fellow from 2009-2010 at Virginia Commonwealth University, said that the Humphrey Fellowship was only the beginning of a “lifetime process.” According to Valeriy, his Fellowship year not only provided him with knowledge in his field, but also with connections around the world. In fact, Valeriy still speaks to and works with members of his Humphrey cohort. In 2010, he and a Humphrey alumnus from Malaysia initiated a Substance Abuse Prevention Training Program at Virginia Commonwealth University. Significantly, Valeriy was recently awarded a Humphrey Alumni Impact Award to advance his work on substance abuse prevention programs in schools in Ukraine. This award will continue to ensure his lifetime connection to the Humphrey Program.

When asked about the impact that the Humphrey Fellowship Program has had on her career, Riza Sarasvita, a 2003-2004 Humphrey Fellow at Johns Hopkins University, noted that participating in the program “opened her mind and changed her way of thinking.” She admitted that before her Fellowship, she knew very little about evidence-based training in the Substance Abuse Field; however, her coursework at Johns Hopkins enabled her to become a leader in this methodology in Indonesia. She also said that as a result of the program, she gained the confidence to establish a professional network in her field. Riza recognized that “managing substance use disorder (SUD) problems involves a multiparty and multidisciplinary team.” Therefore, she began working with NGOs and law enforcement agencies at home, advocating for awareness. In 2009, Riza secured a new position as Chief of the Substance Abuse Subdirectorate at Ministry of Health Republic of Indonesia. In this role, she continues to use the technical and professional skills that she learned during her Humphrey Fellowship.

The 2014 NIDA Forum offered the opportunity for Humphrey alumni to come together to discuss issues of common interest in the substance abuse field. The poster sessions at the event also allowed the alumni to showcase their individual research on topics including the effects of second-hand smoke, energy drink consumption, and marijuana abuse. The Humphrey Program has partnered with the National Institute on Drug Abuse for 25 years. We are grateful for this partnership which connects Humphrey Fellows to researchers and professionals in their field and look forward to next year’s NIDA Forum.

Alumni pictured clockwise from top-left: Ivan Yamil Quevedo Labbe, Riza Sarasvita, and Valeriy Ryabukha.