This summer the Center office in Kisumu will be hosting three students through a Student Research Training (SRT) summer program. They will be joined by a Masters in Global Health student, an ob/gyn resident and a post-doctoral fellow, all researching various aspects of cervical cancer prevention and health systems strengthening for reproductive health.  They’ve just arrived in Kenya, and I’ve asked them to share some of their plans and expectations for the summer.  Follow this page to see updates on their projects and reflections throughout the summer.

Emma Mehlhop, T’21

Since this summer will be my first experience in field work of any kind, I have much to anticipate. First, I am looking forward to reflecting on not just why I am passionate about Global Health, but what I am personally able to contribute to the field. During the Global Health Ethics course, we spent time reflecting on the work of Boniface Mwangi, a Kenyan photojournalist, who asks Global Health workers and activists why they seek out work in a foreign country when they arguably could make more of an impact at home. I often reflect on Mwangi’s point of view not as a discouragement from working abroad at all, but as a reminder to consider what my impact really is as a member of this study. While I have spent much time in the classroom considering why I care about and want to study social determinants of health and why this type of research is important to me, I hope to complete my portion of the project with a somewhat clear sense of my personal role in Global Health and an answer to the question of why I am participating in field work abroad. I am also eager to get to know our partners in Kenya at KEMRI and FACES and learn why Global Health is important to them, and why many have dedicated their lives to the field. Finally, I am looking forward to the responsibility associated with my role in SRT, as my previous research experience was as a Research Assistant where I had a much smaller role in the project as a whole. As someone considering pursuing research after graduation, I am looking forward to the experience of becoming fully immersed in the research each day, planning next steps, and efficiently communicating findings to our partners and participants.

Suzanna Larkin, T’21

As I prepare to travel to Kisumu for the summer and work alongside Duke and fellow researchers, there are 3 aspects that I would like to develop through SRT. Firstly, over the summer I hope to complete all steps which we’ve deemed necessary in our preparations to help researchers measure the extent of cervical cancer stigma among women and how it influences the uptake of interventions. Secondly, I would like to see that through our close engagement with experienced researchers, we are able to form long-lasting relationships with those integral to cervical cancer research. Lastly, I would like to distinguish for myself whether I want to pursue my career in global health in a research setting versus a policy setting — this is the perfect opportunity to see whether I thrive in field research. There is one aspect that prevails all of these goals: I want to approach the summer in an entirely respectful and gracious manner so that I don’t impose myself upon the community.

While reaching towards these goals over the summer, I anticipate that several of my previous classes I’ve taken at Duke provided information which will be integral in my field work. Through my African and African American Studies classes, I’ve learned aspects of deep-rooted history which still influence perceptions today. My Global Health courses — Global Health Ethics, Global Reproductive Health (shoutout to Dr. Huchko!), and Global Health 101 to name a few — aspire to prepare Duke students for the field. And now, one day before boarding my flight to Kisumu, I am eager to put my classes’ insights to use.

Andrea Chalem, T’20

My expectation is that this will a summer experience filled with learning. From an academic standpoint I expect to learn a great deal and gain some perspective on what it actually means to be a global health researcher. I’m looking forward to learning about mHealth through hands on experience, and to learn significantly about the data collection portion of research. As a rising senior I’m not exactly sure of my plans after graduation, but I hope this summer experience will aid me in the decisions I make about applying to graduate programs such as a MPH or the kinds of jobs I choose to apply to this coming year.

I expect that the learning portion of this summer will go far beyond the academic, and for that I am incredibly excited. I know there will be much to learn about working in a team and working with supervisors and coordinators in a foreign country where I am an outsider. I know that traveling as a Duke student automatically puts me in a position of privilege. However, I’m also aware that there is so much I don’t know, and I cannot wait to learn about Kisumu, its people, and their culture while I work there. I know that parts of this experience that won’t be easy and will require a lot of hard work on my part, but I hope that through this work I’m able to learn about myself while developing new connections.

I expect to best learn this summer is by putting myself in a position where I am best equipped to do so. For now this means to read as much as I can- whether it’s research related journal articles or news articles from the region- to ask questions (when appropriate) that will further learning, and to hopefully journal as well. 

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