This summer, 4 students will join the Center as part of the Student Research Training Program (SRT). Hear their thoughts heading into the program.
When I first applied to the SRT program, I merely expected to ‘conduct’ research abroad. In reality, I learned more important skills such as writing IRB amendments, scheduling a meeting with teammates, and communicating with a research team in Kisumu. My goal for this summer is to apply what I learned from Dr. Eric Green’s Global Health Research Methods class into a real-life setting, and I believe we are making our way to this goal since the team proposed a new way to evaluate the intervention! I look forward to conducting observational study and focus group discussions. Also, I am hoping to learn how to navigate myself in a new living environment and what are Kenya’s unique cultural factors that influence stigma and perception towards reproductive health since it is also related to my senior thesis project. One thing I am most worried about is communication. As an international student, I had to be keen on time differences with my home country (Korea) and the United States during the school year, but now, I have more time zones! My friends are mostly on the East coast, and my family will be scattered around Europe and Asia. From the third week of May, the ‘World Clock’ section on my phone will be full of different time zones.
I am excited to be traveling to Kisumu, Kenya this summer to help with the research project ‘Developing a tool to measure cervical cancer stigma among HIV positive women in Kenya’. As part of the Duke Global Health Institute Student Research Training, my team and I will be conducting focus group discussions with Kenyan women to determine the effectiveness of an educational intervention to reduce stigma, and we will be performing workflow analysis for both the intervention and control clinics in our study. Through this analysis, my goal is to gain global health research experience by learning to interact with individuals in a different cultural community and participating in a community health intervention. I am extremely interested in this topic of research because I plan to become an infectious disease doctor, and I would like to help prevent the progression of infectious diseases to non-communicable diseases. HPV is a common infectious disease that is sexually transmitted and can lead to cervical cancer. I am excited to work with women to reduce the prevalence of cervical cancer by increasing HPV screening and prevention. I am hoping to learn more about how stigma prevents HPV screening and hinders medical treatment. I am most worried about the communication between myself, my team, and the participants in the study in ensuring that the study rolls smoothly. I am confident that no matter how the research flows, we will be able to make progress toward increasing HPV prevention and helping reduce the stigma for Kenyan women.
This summer I am looking forward to staying in Kisumu, Kenya with SRT and working with community partners to help conduct research focused on mitigating HPV and cervical cancer among Kenyan women. My goal this summer is to learn more about community-based research and research regarding sexual and reproductive health, and I am really interested in expanding my knowledge on research practices while engaging with different stakeholders involved in the project. I would also really like to understand more about how to contribute to a sustainable global health project as a visiting student and provide resources for the community to help build capacity in local areas. As a student, I am interested in gaining perspectives on different health systems and settings, and I hope that I can learn about collecting and analyzing qualitative and quantitative research data. However, I have never been abroad for an extended period of time before, and I am worried about being away from my family and home while coming to a new environment. Despite my worries, I am ready to keep an open mind and experience new perspectives during this research project along with the rest of my SRT cohort. I am excited to learn and contribute to our research project with our amazing SRT team and leaders!
Less than a month away from our team’s departure date for Kenya my primary emotion is excitement. Working in the field of women’s health and health education has been my dream for several years. For generations, women in my family have suffered due to a lack of healthcare education. This project feels like my opportunity to pay forward the educational opportunities I was lucky enough to receive.
Alongside excitement, I feel the usual anxieties associated with traveling to a new country for the first time. However, my biggest fear is leaving this project behind and never thinking about it again, after the eight weeks are over. Recently, I have been reading a lot about voluntourism, and the harm that comes with establishing temporary interventions that are not meant to last beyond a short duration. I want to ensure that the work we accomplish this summer has a lasting impact, and I know myself and the other SRT undergrads are dedicated to continuing this project well into the next year and beyond. While I can’t predict exactly what will happen this summer, I am hoping to improve as a researcher, develop cross-cultural skills, and maybe go on a few safaris along the way.