Kelly selected as a 2018-19 Fulbright Scholar

Laurel Demkovich • April 18, 2018
James Kelly, associate professor of journalism and director of undergraduate studies at The Media School, has been selected as as 2018-2019 Fulbright Scholar. (Maggie Richards, senior | The Media School)

James Kelly, associate professor of journalism and director of undergraduate studies at The Media School, had a lifelong goal of being a Fulbright Scholar.

Kelly knew he would apply for the Fulbright, a government-funded, merit-based grant program, at some point in his career. As he prepared for a year and a half long sabbatical, it seemed like the perfect time.

He knew this would be his last chance to apply. He did, and he received it.

Kelly will use the money to fund his research next year at Moi University in Eldoret, Kenya. He will spend the 2019 spring semester teaching two courses on health communication and researching and photographing a book about a nearly thirty-year partnership between IU and Moi University that provides health education and care in western Kenya.

“This is something I’ve wanted to do since I decided I wanted to be an academic,” Kelly said.

Kelly’s research will focus on AMPATH, a partnership with Moi University School of Medicine, Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, and a consortium of North American academic health centers led by IU School of Medicine. AMPATH provides support, mentorship and training to Kenyan medical faculty and staff and allows them to deliver care and perform research around western Kenya.

The idea for Kelly’s research stems from years of work at both IU and in Kenya.  While at IU, he’s done academic research with the IU School of Medicine and AMPATH. He’s also done research on covering HIV/AIDS and has taught journalists how to report on healthcare.  

At the Media School, Kelly has taken a class to Uganda each summer to report on HIV/AIDS in Africa. The program originally started in Kenya, and students got the chance to work with AMPATH. Now, however, students travel to Uganda and learn how to report on healthcare.

Kelly said AMPATH is doing something right when it comes to healing and training. And he wants to find out exactly what that is and what motivates it. He added that a big problem for many schools and hospitals in the developing world is that they spend money researching and training healthcare providers only to have most move away to the U.S. and other parts of the developed world.

“The brain drain is huge,” Kelly said. “It happens with doctors, nurses, social workers.”

A recent study, however, suggests that AMPATH has a better chance of keeping those its trained than other organizations.

Kelly’s research will take a closer look at that same topic and try to pinpoint what the motivation is for people at AMPATH to stay at AMPATH: Is it that they work with foreigners? That the structure supports efforts to serve in Kenya?

“I want to come to some understanding so that other projects might be able to adapt as well,” Kelly said.

He said his main goal for his research is to allow other universities who do similar work to AMPATH to learn from its lessons. If more people can see what AMPATH is doing right, maybe other organizations can do something similar and work to fix the “brain drain.”

He added he wants to be able to provide this information in an emotionally engaging way with his photographs. The book, which he hopes to publish in 2020, will be a combination of photographs of staff interactions with clients and each other in the hospitals, clinics and client’s homes.  

He said he hopes the photographs are able to show the reader exactly what AMPATH’s process looks like so they can better understand why AMPATH works.

Kelly said his approach to healthcare has always been through training journalists to report on it. He will still be doing that at Moi by teaching a class on healthcare reporting and another on photojournalism. However, his research will extend beyond that.

“This will be a completely new avenue of research for me,” Kelly said. “I’ll be able to come at it with an outsider’s perspective.”

Kelly said another goal of his research will be to show people in Indiana and at IU the work its medical school is doing.

Media School Dean James Shanahan said the award is nice not only for Kelly but also for the school. He said he knows Kelly’s colleagues are excited for him.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Shanahan said. “He’s certainly very deserving of it.”

Shanahan added people who work with Kelly gain a lot of respect for him. “He’s a very dedicated, very hardworking person of high integrity,” Shanahan said.

Kelly said being a Fulbright scholar will not only affect how he does his research, but also how he teaches his classes. He added it motivates him to do his best work and teaching.

“I thoroughly believe travel, especially travel to the developing world, is essential to educate students on living in a global society,” Kelly said.