Written by Amy Jasani, BA, MPH, University of Alabama at Birmingham, participant in the 2019 Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program – Public & Global Health Track
I find it extremely difficult to summarize and reflect on my eight weeks in the Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program – Public and Global Health Track. Where did time go? How am I already finalizing my presentation and spending my last weeks in St. Louis with my cohort? But this is just one small challenge of the many I have witnessed, faced, and grown from this summer.
One of the benefits of working at Washington University in St. Louis has been observing and comprehending challenges at the forefront of public health and medicine. Since day one, our cohort has explored the multiple dimensions that influence health inequity in St. Louis, specifically racism and history, unequal access to care, and health policy. Even further, I have visited a range of homes in the metropolitan area as part of conducting an interventional clinical research study on assessing and eradicating Staphylococcus aureus disease transmission among household members and environmental surfaces. These experiences have informed my understanding of the type and burden of illnesses faced by different populations and the necessity for prevention and education measures in health. In the realm of medicine, I have closely witnessed and learned the value of collaborative approaches and dialogue for managing patient care in the pediatrics and infectious disease case conferences every week. Seeing the challenges in both disciplines has given me a taste of the exciting training and work I have ahead.
But the theme of challenge this summer does not stop there; I faced it frequently with my own research project on medical-seeking behaviors for participants (gathered from two larger, prospective cohort studies) with skin and soft tissue infections (SSTIs). The first few weeks were tough as I surveyed medical literature to understand my topic and consider relevant variables to compare to whether participants sought SSTI treatment and treatment setting. There were moments of feeling confused and overwhelmed amidst preparing and conducting home visits in one of the ongoing prospective studies in my lab, but I eventually gained more adeptness at critical thinking and content familiarity. I additionally applied epidemiology concepts from my university classes to real-life data analysis and organization while learning the program SPSS. My project progress now makes me feel my eight weeks has been far too short for what is left to demonstrate the relevance of our work.
Beyond the research project, house visits, seminars, and conferences, I have been challenged to envision how I will integrate public health thinking and work in my future.
The other program interns, all from different walks of life around the world, have refined my perspective on topics like healthcare management and policy, components of effective health interventions, and areas beyond health. They have inspired me to ask meaningful questions and fueled my curiosity to visit other places and work in multiple settings. Overall, my summer experience has prepared me to confront more challenges, and even walk a step further to challenge the status quo, in public health and medicine to achieve progress.