Meet One of Our Global Health Fellows

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Jonathan Strysko headshot After completing his general pediatric training and chief residency in New York City, Jonathan Strysko, MD, MSc, joined the Epidemic Intelligence Service at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). He spent two years at the CDC responding to outbreaks of food- and waterborne diseases, including cholera, typhoid fever and Cronobacter infection.

After his time at the CDC, Dr. Strysko spent three years full-time in Botswana as a CHOP David N. Pincus Global Health Fellow. In addition to serving on the national pediatric COVID-19 task force and providing clinical service at Princess Marina Hospital, Botswana’s largest referral hospital, he also joined the University of Botswana’s Faculty of Medicine as an adjunct senior lecturer.

During his fellowship, Dr. Strysko’s research focused on neonatal sepsis prevention and antimicrobial resistance. As a co-investigator in the neonatal infections and microbiome research study at Princess Marina Hospital, he helped pilot a low-cost environmental sampling strategy to identify reservoirs and transmission vehicles for multidrug-resistant organisms in the neonatal care environment.

Dr. Strysko recently answered a few questions about his time as a fellow – and shared some advice for new CHOP Global Health fellows.

Why did you choose CHOP for your fellowship?

When I finished residency training and joined the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service, I found I loved the kind of “shoe-leather” epidemiology that combines public health with detective work. But being first and foremost a pediatrician, I missed being at the bedside: listening for a murmur, feeling for lymph nodes, and getting the chance to put a patient and their family at ease. When I realized I might be able to do all of the above in Botswana, where my wife is from, I jumped at the opportunity and haven’t once regretted it.

What is your favorite memory from your time as a fellow?

What I enjoyed most about my time as a fellow was being a student of my patients. Botswana is relatively small and sparsely populated, yet I am constantly stunned by the steady clip of patients with rare conditions that arrive in our wards: juvenile myasthenia gravis, cerebral malaria, Guillain-Barré syndrome, infective endocarditis, and multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children -- just to name a few. With fewer diagnostics and subspecialists available, you are forced to be a generalist, to constantly read and challenge your assumptions. I am a much stronger pediatrician because of this experience.

What did you enjoy most about your time at CHOP?

While I spent all three years of my fellowship in Botswana (which I feel is one of the program’s key strengths), I benefited from the constant support and mentorship of the CHOP community. If I felt like I was in over my head, I knew an army of supporters in Philly was just an email or phone call away.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I usually spend my free time hanging out with my wife and two daughters. On weekends, I attend to a rather pitiful melon patch on our family farm about half an hour outside of Gaborone, when I’ll get lost in the bliss of a good audiobook or podcast.

What advice would you give new Global Health fellows?

Love where you live. Imagine yourself never leaving. Learn the language and make a genuine attempt at correct pronunciation. Go easy on yourself even when it feels like you don’t have anything to offer or show for your hard work. Vulnerability is brave and can inspire others.

What’s next for you?

I’m joining the University of Pennsylvania faculty as an assistant professor of Pediatrics, spending most of my time in Botswana, where, in addition to clinical service and teaching, I’m directing a five-year CDC-funded program building capacity to prevent, detect and contain antimicrobial resistance. 

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