ASU alumna works to reduce HIV stigmas

Dorelle Dushime reflects on her global health journey from her childhood in East Africa to ASU and beyond

August 2, 2022

Dorelle Dushime always had a passion for health equity and helping people. 

She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in global health from the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University in 2016. Portrait of ASU alum Dorelle Dushime Photo courtesy Dorelle Dushime

Recently, Dushime placed in phase one of a national challenge aimed at reducing HIV-related stigma and disparities.

The challenge

When she read about the “HIV Challenge: Innovative Community Engagement Strategies to Reduce HIV-Related Stigma and Disparities” on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website, Dushime knew she could make a difference. 

Her proposal made her one of 15 people, out of 80, who went through to phase one of the competition, and she was awarded $20,000 to support her plan. 

In creating her proposal, Dushime wants to create a safe platform for LGBTQ youth to participate, learn and be able to ask questions about HIV to help end the stigmatization surrounding the disease. 

“My proposal focuses on creating a culturally and linguistically fun, trustworthy and educational space, specifically created by and for the Black and brown youth of the LGBTQ+ community,” Dushime said. “The goal is to increase PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and ART (antiretroviral therapy) uptake, and reduce HIV-related stigma disparities.”

Dushime said she envisions a community who will share stories and make connections to others who live with HIV. 

“The end goal is to make sure that as a whole population we are educated about HIV, and together debunk false myths and make HIV part of the norm,” Dushime said. 

Although she was not selected to move forward to phase two of the challenge, Dushime said she will still work to promote her proposal to organizations and even other countries. She will also use some of the money to help start her nonprofit organization, Succeed-Room. 

“Succeed-Room will focus on building a global community health workforce to promote preventive care and provide basic health needs to marginalized populations by meeting them where they are and initiating sustainable and community-based approaches to bridge different barriers associated with accessing health services and ultimately achieve optimal health outcomes,” Dushime said. 

Burundi to Arizona State University 

The story of Dushime’s passion to end suffering and provide basic human rights started long before her time in the United States, but grew while attending ASU. The importance of global health was prevalent for Dushime while growing up in the central country of Burundi in East Africa.  

Dushime said she lived in a nice area of Burundi and had access to clean water, food and education. However, she witnessed death and starvation on a daily basis. 

“Literally every kid that I would talk to would tell me that their parents died and they didn’t have any family members taking care of them,'' Dushime said. “They were orphans and a majority of their parents were dying from malaria or tuberculosis.” 

When she was in eighth grade, Dushime decided she wanted to be a doctor to help people who needed it the most. She started by asking her mother if she could feed a couple children on Sundays with the family’s leftovers. She and her family continued to help feed children in Burundi for six years, until Dushime came to the United States to attend college. 

“In Burundi, the vast majority of the population do not have access to primary health care,” Dushime said. 

After high school Dushime took a yearlong program in Burundi for students who wanted to become medical doctors. Her plan was to move to North Carolina and attend medical school. However, her contacts in North Carolina moved and Dushime ended up in Phoenix. She attended Estrella Mountain Community College and then transferred to ASU. 

Dushime said she soon realized she wasn’t going to be able to afford medical school, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to stay away from her home country for seven years. That’s when she discovered the School of Human Evolution and Social Change’s global health program.

“I did global health because I knew I would still be able to make the impact I wanted to make and help the most vulnerable people,” Dushime said. “That’s all I wanted; to make sure all people have equal access to resources that every human being has. I felt like that was a human right.” 

Dushime also minored in justice studies and earned a certificate in human rights during her time at ASU. 

ASU and beyond

After her time at ASU, Dushime attended graduate school at Northwestern University and obtained her Master of Science in global health in 2020. (The School of Human Evolution and Social Change launched a Master of Science in global health in 2021.) Dushime said her time at Arizona State University prepared her for a master’s degree. 

“I gained tremendous insights from approaching to solving different health problems that go beyond national boundaries, the importance and efficiency of preventative care, and the crucial role of culture, gender, race and religion when addressing contemporary health challenges,'' Dushime said. 

After graduating, Dushime returned to Burundi in May 2021 and helped communities who were affected by the flooding caused by rising water from Lake Tanganyika and the Rusizi River. 

She said although there were global nonprofit organizations also trying to help, it just wasn’t enough. She used her own money to help buy as much medical supplies as she could, knowing it wouldn’t be sustainable, but trying to make a difference. 

Dushime has put together all she has learned and has moved back to Arizona and is now working on a national health disparities program at the Pima County Health Department, where she leads and implements equitable and community driven strategies to prevent and control COVID-19 infection within populations hit hard by the pandemic.

“Health equity is possible. We have a long way to go, but the good thing is that we have started; we just have to be intentional, build rapport and trust, and most importantly, create a symbiosis relationship with community members,” Dushime said. 

Nicole Pomerantz

Communications specialist, School of Human Evolution and Social Change


The transportation equation

ASU researcher Xuesong 'Simon' Zhou creates an open-source mapping system to streamline transportation modeling research

August 2, 2022

Xuesong “Simon” Zhou says there are several variables that make up his vision for an ideal transportation system of the future.

First is creating a carbon neutral environment by 2050. The second involves improving access to transportation for disabled, low-income and other minority groups to create equity with the driving population. An arial image of an intersection with green gridlines overlaid on it Xuesong Zhou, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, has spent a majority of his career working to create a universal mapping system for transportation researchers to use to look at the multiple levels of interaction that happen between cars, bikes and pedestrians in complex networks. Image courtesy Xuesong Zhou/ASU Download Full Image

These are not easy feats on their own and for these changes to be effective, they must happen at the same time. This presents even more of a challenge for transportation researchers like Zhou.

Before about 1940, walking, bicycling and public transit were recognized as important travel modes, but for most of the last century, transport planning has been automobile oriented. As a result, most communities now have well-developed road systems that allow motorists to drive to most destinations safely and with relative convenience; at worst they may be delayed by peak period congestion or pay tolls and parking fees at some destinations. However, such planning ignored the needs of people who use non-automobile travel modes.

Zhou, an associate professor focusing on multimodal transportation research in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of the seven Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, says that is where his work comes into play.

“We need to have a seamless connection between design planning and execution,” Zhou says. “The two steps are reliant on one another, so if we plan for an effective implementation, we plan for a better design and vice versa.”

Cars, buses, bikes and pedestrians

Zhou’s multimodal transportation research investigates how various transportation options play an integral role in meeting the mobility needs of the populations that rely on them, how each transit option impacts the usage of other modes of transportation as well as the infrastructure needed to support the multiple transportation options.

Urban intersections in the United States have many of the same components, such as a number of lanes utilized by vehicles or buses, other lanes for bikes and sidewalks for pedestrians. Each element represents a critical component of a multimodal network that needs to be considered when creating models and planning out cities.

In recent years, Zhou has worked with numerous transportation researchers and practitioners to find ways to streamline research in the field of multimodal transportation modeling. In most instances, researchers create their own data sets and unique maps for the regions where they conducted their research. As a result, when researchers from other areas want to replicate the study design in their region, they need to start from scratch.

“There was no universal system for building models and the networks upon which they are built,” Zhou says. “We created a way to convert General Transit Feed Specification, or GTFS, and OpenStreetMaps, which are industry standards, into the General Modeling Network Specification, or GMNS, a common human and machine readable format that can be shared between transportation researchers.”

Graphic of a mapping system showing three views.

Zhou’s universal mapping system allows researchers to model transportation systems at multiple scales. Graphic courtesy Xuesong Zhou

The project is called osm2gmns, and is available to professionals around the world at no cost. It is a joint effort with Jiawei “Jay” Lu, a civil, environmental and sustainable engineering doctoral student at ASU, and many others.

In addition to creating a standard map for network analysis, Zhou’s work allows researchers to model at a more in-depth level than before with multi-level resolution. Using ASU research computing facilities, Zhou’s team also created an entire U.S. driving network from OpenStreetMap with 20 million nodes, and the related Python package has been installed more than 40,000 times.

“Traditionally, in city planning, you would look at an intersection as one point of interaction, but when you add in a pedestrian crosswalk, you now have to factor in left and right turn lanes creating more points of interaction,” Zhou says. “The same goes for adding in bike lanes; you now have to go lane by lane and determine the points of interaction among transportation system users.”

Zhou says that having an integrated transportation model at different scales including macro-, meso- and micro-levels, allows for a better cost-benefit analysis of adding various elements such as major intersections, bike lanes and even stop lights where they can be used most effectively.

“Dr. Zhou is one of the most methodologically gifted transportation scholars in the profession,” says Ram Pendyala, a fellow transportation researcher and director of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment. “What sets him apart is that he works tirelessly to translate research into practice through the development of sophisticated software tools and systems that can be readily adopted and used in real-world planning applications.”

Supply and demand

The city of Tempe, Arizona, is characterized by multi-lane streets, bike lanes, light rail tracks and a newly added streetcar line. Due to commuting patterns, those modes of transportation can become congested as individuals start and end their work day. Determining ways to overcome this congestion and make transportation networks operate in the most time- and cost-efficient ways is a key area of Zhou’s research.

For decades, researchers have used a more traditional supply and demand curve to model the usage of transportation options. This methodology focused on one point in time and couldn’t account as accurately for multiple modes of transportation operating simultaneously in the same time.

Zhou’s most recent study, “A meso-to-macro cross-resolution performance approach for connecting polynomial arrival queue model to volume-delay function with inflow demand-to-capacity ratio,” has introduced new mathematical equations that rectify this oversight.

portrait of ASU Associate Professor Xuesong Zhou

Associate Professor Xuesong Zhou.

“We are finally able to go from the macroscale to the microscale much more easily without using simulation,” Zhou says. “Why is this so important? Because it will save us time from doing heavy duty computational work and still provide us a precise evaluation of alternatives.

“We are still using simulations to mimic vehicle-by-vehicle congestion, but we can use this analytical tool to calculate delay time dependencies hour by hour.”

Zhou’s work in transportation modeling has sparked the interest of researchers across the world, and many are looking to Zhou for insight into their own work and the sphere of transportation research as a whole.

Zhou was recently elected to the national executive board of the Zephyr Foundation for Advancing Travel Analysis. The nonprofit organization has sought to create open-source tools, similar to those that Zhou has developed, and formulate industry standards so that transportation modeling research can be replicated easily across contexts.

“His work in modeling and optimizing dynamics of transportation networks, traffic flow and emerging mobility services is groundbreaking, and being adopted by cities and transportation planning agencies around the world,” Pendyala says.

“In the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, we are constantly striving to advance use-inspired research that will render our future infrastructure systems more sustainable, efficient, resilient and equitable. Dr. Zhou’s work in the transportation systems analysis space contributes immensely to advancing our mission, and he is educating and training a next-generation transportation workforce fully equipped to harness the power of technology and leverage the capabilities of artificial intelligence, deep learning and operations research to achieve these goals.”

Monica Williams

Communications Specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering