Blog Sexual Health

A summer of many firsts

Written by Relebohile Masitha, BA, Agnes Scott College and participant in the 2019 Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program – Public & Global Health Track

I have conducted interviews for needs assessments and small projects before. This is my first time conducting interviews for research. What I enjoy most about the research I do is the conversations that arise from the interviews and what I learn from the lived experiences of each interviewee. We discuss issues that we would rather not touch on in a normal conversation.

As an aspiring health economist, I cherish the effort that scientists and policy makers are making to consider patient’s input when making decisions. For example, Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR), where I work focuses on biomedical laboratory research. As a Public Health (and Economics) major, I do not know much about working in a lab. However, my mentor, Dr. George Kyei, took me in to conduct preliminary research on the perspectives of HIV patients on HIV cure research. My mentor’s main study is to test one of the approaches to cure HIV. My research will help him choose the best study design based on patient preferences. Research participant’s perspectives are important because they face risks associated with the study and the research is made for societal benefit. I am delighted to be able to help researchers and scientists make more evidence-based and considerate decisions.

Going into this program, what mattered to me was getting an opportunity to spend my summer doing research that can be directly applied to the African continent. I had the opportunity to do research on health systems in various public health courses but would always shy away from choosing African settings because we do not have enough research to meet the breadth required for my assignments. Most policy decisions are made based off research done in other developed countries, which lack the contextual components.

Through this process, I have also learned of the tedious aspects to doing this type of research, which can only be experienced in a program like this. For example, I have to transcribe all of the interviews I conducted. Thirty minutes worth of recording takes me 2-3 hours to transcribe, but I enjoyed doing this. This laborious process is a reminder that doing what you love makes everything easier.

I believe that there is always one or two things that people have to tolerate in order to do what they love. This is not a first, as I always make sure that I conduct informational interviews at every internship I take. However, this was my first time conducting an informational interview with health economists at the School of Public Health, University of Ghana.