Meet 2019 Forward under 40 Award Recipient Kristin Kohlmann’13

UW Major: Genetics and Global Health
Age: 27 | Oakfield, Wisconsin | Blantyer, Malawi, Africa | Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Clinical Research Coordinator, Washington University in Saint Louis and Project Peanut Butter (on sabbatical)

Kristin Kohlmann’s research on child and maternal health could mean a big breakthrough for treating acute malnutrition — one of the world’s leading causes of child death.

Since 2016, she’s been part of Project Peanut Butter, a nonprofit that serves families suffering from poor nutrition in rural Ghana, Malawi, and Sierra Leone. In recent years, she designed local networks to deliver ready-to-use therapeutic food to children from six months to five years old. Kohlmann has seen firsthand how the protein-rich food therapy can reverse the effects of malnutrition by boosting kids’ immunity and growth.

“I love being ‘on the ground’ and working directly with mothers and children,” Kohlmann has
written. “There is nothing better than seeing the program I developed actually reaching children with
acute malnutrition and helping them recover.”

Kohlmann traveled throughout Ghana, hiring local nursing staff
and volunteers and guiding day-to-day operations of 35 mobile clinics. More recently, she’s coordinated clinical trials across Malawi, seeking the best ways to deliver food therapy to kids with moderate and severe malnutrition.

Her research pursuits started with her upbringing in rural Wisconsin and
a deep curiosity about nature. It was at UW–Madison, Kohlmann says, that being part of a diverse community fueled her interest in bringing the promise of science to people in need.

“My sense of wonder spread beyond the hows and whys of the natural world,” she says. “I solidified my desire to engage with people, celebrate the diversity of humanity, and find greater meaning in the work I do.”

AmeriCorps gave Kohlmann her start in health care when she helped underserved patients in Milwaukee access low-cost medications. With the International Rescue Committee in Salt Lake City, she connected refugees with health services. Kohlmann’s quest for answers now continues in Germany: she’s earning a master’s degree in international public health and making plans for more field research in the years ahead.

Photo by Rebecca Roediger

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