Blog Global Health Center

A summer at WashU – Experiences of a low-income country citizen

Written by Bijay Shrestha, MPH candidate at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and the Amelia Jane Brown Johnson Memorial Award Scholar in the 2023 Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program

Bijay Shrestha with his mentor, Amy McQueen, PhD, on orientation day

During this summer, in the Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program – Public & Global Health track, I got the incredible opportunity to work under the mentorship of Professor Amy McQueen, PhD. It is a divergent and an exciting experience for a guy from a low-income country, Nepal, to pursue an MPH degree here in the United States, and being a research enthusiast, my acceptance into the Summer Research Program, added to my excitement.

With great enthusiasm, I have applied what I have learned thus far in my MPH courses, starting my summer on a longitudinal project called, “Examining the Influence of Social Needs on Health-related Outcomes among Adult Medicaid Members with Type 2 Diabetes.”

I have a firm belief that social determinants of health have a significant impact on disease prevention and disease progression; hence, since it explores the impact of a lack of social needs on diabetes management, there is no doubt that this project syncs with my area of interest. This research is indeed, trying to address the root of problems faced by marginalized people with chronic conditions, portraying diabetes as an example. During this opportunity, I am privileged to learn and apply public health research methodologies in a real-world setting.

Along with the research project, and in terms of research knowledge and skills, weekly seminars and workshops have continued to shape my upward growth curve. A talk on environmental research by Professor Joseph T. Steensma, EdD, MPH, MA, particularly impressed me. I liked the way he presented and how he described the progression of events in Haiti. The answer to the question “How Haiti turned from the pearl of the Antilles to peril in the Antilles?” was beautifully incorporated into the presentation. The cumulative effects of poorly regulated interacting systems such as a lack of policy around land ownership; fisheries, farming and land use; trade and foreign policy, infrastructure and market regulation; anti-collusion policies, and forestry regulation and enforcement all have led to overutilization and non-sustainable use of resources, adverse impacts on the environment, and thus, negative public health outcomes. Haiti was once the Caribbean’s agricultural powerhouse, but now the people there are struggling with food insecurity. I was so engrossed in the presentation that I wanted to listen for much longer.

In summation, I discovered that effective presentation skills can add extra color to our research, and good government policies are essential for environmental sustainability and flourishing livelihoods.

I express my humble gratitude to David Von Nordheim, data analyst in the WashU Health Communication Research Laboratory; program organizers and sponsors; and, to all workshop presenters who provided a platform to expand my research knowledge and prepare me for a career as a physician-scientist.