Dora Ward Curry, Class of 1994

Dora Ward Curry, Class of 1994

Regularly throughout her young life, Dora Ward Curry ’94 visited Wesleyan with her grammy, Lou Matteson Jones ’46. By the time Dora began her college search, she knew she wanted to attend a women’s college. She was accepted to Smith and Wellesley, but chose Wesleyan, where her other grandmother, Joy Lawless Tripp ’46, had also attended. Dora enjoyed her quick immersion into campus activities and the easy access and close mentoring relationships she had with her professors.

Dora’s major was a self-designed interdisciplinary study in humanities, and she says it suits her career today more than she ever imagined. Her idea was also to complete a full pre-med course load and eventually go to medical school. Dora knew she wanted to work in the health industry, specifically with mothers and children, and thought she would become a family practitioner in an underserved community.

Dora designed her major to focus on women’s issues through a variety of disciplines: philosophy, psychology, pre-med, and even literature. She was motivated by social issues such as the dynamics of family relationships, what it means to be a mother, and the impact of home and work on the health of mother and child. After graduation Dora enrolled in Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health and applied to the department of international health. “Languages came pretty naturally to me, and I enjoyed the summer I spent living with family friends in Mexico during high school. The first day of class I knew I’d found where I belonged. Global public health draws on everything I love. I love the languages, I love the travel, and I love mingling with colleagues from all over the world. I’m drawn to a public health approach because of its capacity for scale,” she said.

Describing her work as “community service to the world,” Dora now works for CARE USA as senior technical advisor helping doctors, nurses, and community leaders improve the health of mothers and children. “We provide medical supplies for family planning and basic health. We supply knowledge in two ways: clinical training and data analysis. My colleague oversees the training of nurses, doctors, and midwives in basic medical procedures. My role is to help the clinic managers determine how many patients they see and what services they will offer. I emphasize the importance of providing quality care, like having medicines in stock and basic cleanliness and infection prevention practices. The ultimate goal is to improve every woman’s clinic experience and to encourage more women to use the services,” Dora said.

About forty percent of Dora’s time involves traveling to rural project sites in Chad, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and Pakistan. She has also traveled to or been based in Angola, India, Nepal, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Guatemala, and Venezuela. Her visits are usually a mixture of assessment and training for clinic workers, non-profit staff, and sometimes community leaders.

Dora’s career accomplishments have been many. In rural South Africa, she established a project to improve children’s health and prevent HIV transmission. She eventually handed project leadership over to the South African national she had mentored. When the final evaluation was completed, immunization rates, breastfeeding rates, and the rate of teenage girls abstaining from premarital sex had improved. More recently, Dora was involved with the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s work in India, a former breeding ground for the disease, which recently celebrated three years with no new cases of polio.

“I am doing exactly what I always wanted – helping to improve healthcare services for mothers and children in the most underserved communities in the world,” Dora said. “I have worked in both global and domestic public health and, as important as similar work in America is, I just love the travel, learning new languages, and learning other cultures. The challenge of reaching hard-to-reach and hardly-reached communities motivates me.”