Blog Behavioral/Mental Health

Taking research from Saint Louis to New Delhi

Written by Biva Rajbhandari, programme officer at the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation in New Delhi, India and alumna of the Summer Research Program- Public & Global Health Track

I learned about the Summer Research Program during my first year as a Masters’ candidate in Public Health and Social Work at the Brown School. From the beginning, I saw it as a stepping stone to the world of research. I was overjoyed when I got placed to work with Dr. Patricia Cavazos-Rehg in the Department of Psychiatry and her team, Shaina Sowles, Senior Researcher Manager, and Melissa Krauss, Research Statistician.

A photo of the author.

Dr. Cavazos-Rehg’s lab conducts research on adolescent health including youth substance use behaviours and mental health. These topics were different from my area of interest which lay in global health, specifically sexual and reproductive health in South Asia. However, I quickly learned how invaluable the research skills I was learning from Dr. Cavazos’s team were.

My summer project was to conduct a qualitative analysis of why people have turned to dabbing – a new form of inhaling concentrate marijuana. Through this project, I learned how to design a qualitative study and conduct its analysis. I also received close mentorship and support from Dr. Cavazos, Shaina and Melissa who motivated me to work on other research projects outside of my own.

After the summer program, I was offered a part-time job to work with Dr. Cavazos-Rehg’s team and excitedly accepted as we were launching more studies on adolescent mental health as it pertains to social media. Along with conducting research, I worked on multiple manuscripts which honed my writing skills – something I carried into my professional life.

The Summer Research Program broadened my understanding and ignited my passion for research. During my final year, I accepted a position as a Program Officer at the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF). CIFF is the world’s largest private philanthropy for children. It works across multiple issues including sexual and reproductive health, nutrition, maternal health, child protection and climate change in India, Kenya, Ethiopia and other countries. My research experience coupled with my global health knowledge from my MPH helped me to transition seamlessly into my new job. In fact, one of my first tasks was to help write a manuscript! In my role, I’ve worn multiple hats from designing and managing programs, to conducting evidence reviews to writing detailed proposals. I attribute my success and passion in my professional life to the experience and support I received from Dr. Cavazos, Shaina, and Melissa.

Finally, my advice to other summer program participants is two-fold: first, stay connected to the mentors who have guided you – their support and wisdom will stay with you as you transition into different jobs and life roles. Second, do not shy away from opportunities just because they may not lie in your area of interest. Instead, see them as a chance to build skills that you will need in any profession–like writing and research. You never know if these experiences will lead you across the globe to continue your pursuit to change the world!