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julie rushmore, uganda, 2009-2010

Fulbright Year: 2009-2010
Country: Uganda
Proposal Type: Research
Field of Study: Ecology
Proposal Title: Close-Contact Pathogens, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, and Ugandan Ape Conservation
UGA Graduate Departments: Ecology, College of Veterinary Medicine
Degrees: PhD in Ecology, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
Hometown: Alpharetta, GA

Julie Rushmore made such an impact during her Fulbright year in Uganda that a couple named their baby after her.

“Irumba, a Ugandan field assistant, told me one day that his pregnant wife was overdue and not feeling well,” says Rushmore, who spent much of her tenure living in a protected forest, conducting research on a community of wild chimpanzees. “The following day, I hired a car to ride to town, which is not expensive by American standards – but would be considered very costly for Ugandans. I asked Irumba and his wife to come to town with me, where they could visit a hospital.

“The doctors at the hospital ended up inducing labor, and Irumba and his wife graciously named their baby daughter Rushmore, after my last name. I was so touched. One day in the forest a few weeks later, Irumba asked me what the name Rushmore means so that he can tell his daughter about her namesake. I explained to him that there is a big mountain in the United States with the faces of American presidents carved on it. Irumba didn’t believe me. ‘Faces on a mountain?’ I later showed him a drawing of Mount Rushmore in my passport; Irumba was amazed. The expression on his face was priceless. I look forward to keeping in touch with Irumba and his family, and I hope to meet Rushmore again when she has grown.”

Julie says her time with her native field assistants made her year “very memorable,” and she enjoyed her year-long research project which assessed how ecological and behavioral factors impact disease transmission dynamics in wild chimpanzees.

“I had phenomenal experience learning about chimpanzee behavior and forest ecology,” she says.

She also served as an ad hoc advisor of the heart for another of her field assistants.

“A Ugandan field assistant that I worked with, Sunday, often borrowed books from me, and he would keep a running list of words he didn’t understand, which he would always ask me to define,” she says. “One day, Sunday told me that he had heard of a book from the U.S. called “Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus,” and he said that he would really like to read this book.

“Surprised that Sunday had heard of it, I asked my mom to send me a copy of the book, which arrived a few months later. After Sunday read “Men are From Mars…,” he asked me one day while we were following a group of chimpanzees in the forest, ‘Julie, what does the word ‘validate’ mean? What does it mean that women like to be validated?’ I still laugh thinking about this conversation.”

With a long-held desire to study in Africa, Julie says she plans to maintain ties with her associates in Uganda.

“Growing up, I always wanted to travel to and work in East Africa,” she says. “I imagine reading enough Jane Goodall books has that effect on a child. Through my Fulbright experience, I had the opportunity to live in Uganda for a year, and now I feel confident that I want to keep working there throughout my career. I plan to stay involved in research in East Africa through conservation and public health efforts.”

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