Life's Broad Sea

Alumni in the Spotlight

Laine Wagenseller ’90 felt helpless when he first met Adolf Baguma during a service trip to rural Uganda. Orphaned as a young child, Baguma had suffered debilitating burns when a teenage aunt threw scalding banana leaves on him as punishment for trying to get food. Baguma couldn’t walk upright—his legs were twisted by fused scar tissue—so he got from place to place by scooting himself along on all fours.

One step at a time: A serendipitous encounter between Wagenseller and Baguma led to efforts that helped the Ugandan boy walk again.

Wagenseller shared his Uganda photos with friends, prompting one to offer an introduction to colleagues at the Children’s Burn
Foundation in Los Angeles. With assurance that they could help Baguma walk again, Wagenseller coordinated Baguma’s trip to the U.S., where he underwent three surgeries, several skin grafts, and extensive physical-therapy sessions. He also attended school, learned English, and became a member of the extended Wagenseller family, including Laine’s four nieces and nephews. By the time he was ready to return to Uganda this past April, Baguma could walk and ride a bike and had even mastered a few skateboard moves.

“When I first met Adolf I felt bad for him, but I didn’t know what I could do,” says Wagenseller. “What’s so neat about his story is that one photo led to a phone call, which led to meetings and offers of help from people who didn’t even know him. It’s a testament to how little steps can lead to big changes. We were able to improve the quality of life for Adolf, but he really changed the lives of everyone here who got to know and help him.” 

Wagenseller, who is a member of Rotary International, says he is grateful for the sense of purpose he gains from service work. “Our motto in Rotary is service above self. We may not be able to change the world, but over the course of our lives, we can help one village, or one orphanage, or one child.”

Mudunuri: Translating science. Courtesy Shashi Mudunuri '03


Shashi Mudunuri ’03, M.B.A ’11 wants good science to get published. The problem is lots of it happens outside of English-speaking countries, and English happens to be the standard for academic journals. Without sophisticated translation and editing tools available, work conducted in, say, India or Brazil might never reach interested parties in the U.S. in the academy or beyond. Research breakthroughs could be duplicated or lost. To that end, Mudunuri cofounded American Journal Experts (AJE) in 2004 with Vadim Polokoff B.M.E. ’03, Ph.D. ’09. Both are immigrants with an eye and ear toward the linguistic barriers in academia. With a team of consultants who are experts in a range of fields (many of whom are also Duke alums), AJE helps break down language barriers and academic silos. “When science advances, everybody benefits,” says Mudunuri.

AJE itself is advancing, with more than 200,000 manuscripts edited to date and a new office space in downtown Durham set to open in September. Mudunuri also recently launched a complementary start-up, Rubriq, which will help guide international scholars through the peer-review process itself. As more international papers are being submitted to American journals, the pressure on the peer-review process is growing, and the open-access movement is simultaneously gaining speed. More scientists are producing more research at a faster rate than ever. “This industry is undergoing a massive transformation," he says.

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