As we close out the academic year and head into the hot North Carolina summer, the halls of Trent get a lot quieter. To some, this calm may suggest a mass exodus to the beach or some other vacation destination. However, for faculty, students and staff, the empty offices belie a frenzy of work, as many head off to field sites around the world. Summer break represents a time to re-focus on the work that inspires students, trainees and faculty to put in the hours teaching, writing and learning throughout the year. We use this time to launch new projects, reconnect with their research teams and develop or deepen our partnerships. As we previously described, we have a very busy summer planned with work and site visits in western Kenya, while back at home, continuing with the launch of the Collaboratory project and the Big Data for Reproductive Health Summer team.
I spent the last two weeks in June in Nairobi, Kisumu and Migori, Kenya to work with my team, visit the Center office and meet with key regional and national government leaders in reproductive health and cancer to share our work. Dr. Anne Ng’ang’a, the Director of the National Cancer Control Program, was generous with her time and is interested in using the results of our studies to inform an upcoming nine-county HPV testing pilot. Meeting with her and others in the Kenya National Cancer Institute made the time in the field with the study team even more valuable. Being on the ground allowed me to see firsthand the challenges they face as the prepare for the health campaigns—from limited bandwidth and electricity to delayed shipment of the necessary supplies to a vehicle in the shop followed by a roadside delay while fixing the broken down replacement vehicle. However, after three years of work on community health campaigns, the study team operates with peak efficiency and teamwork in the face of these challenges—they had sent the tents ahead, and immediately set about finalizing preparations and working with the community health volunteers (CHVs) on final mobilization activities.
We also had the opportunity to introduce DGHI and Duke leadership to the Center office in Kisumu. Faith Otewa helped to show Duke Chancellor Gene Washington and DGHI Director Chris Plowe the new, and soon to be bustling, Center Office. They met Amber Fleck, a medical student from University of Colorado, who discussed the study of Community Health Volunteer motivations and experiences. They also heard about the upcoming arrivals of Charlotte Page (R2, ob/gyn) and Moreen Njoroge (Trinity, 2019), who will carry out research projects related to treatment access and uptake for women in the HPV screening study, and Christine Ryan (Law, 2019), who will embark on an abortion advocacy mapping project. The study management team shared their experiences with the studies in Migori and Kisumu, and we talked about future directions for the Center. Dr. Elizabeth Bukusi and Craig Cohen talked about the longstanding collaboration with FACES, and gave us a tour of the Kisumu sites. Finally, we visited the Jeremiah Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital to meet see the treatment sites and meet with Dr. Gregory Ganda and learn more about capacity for women’s cancer care in western Kenya. We look forward to sharing our work and field experiences with more visitors in the future.