By Andrea Mendoza
Like many people, the last few months have been a whirlwind of anxiety, uncertainty, and complex emotions for me. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored existing health disparities and inequities, highlighting the need for public health interventions more than ever. Within the first month of the pandemic, black Americans made up 33% of those hospitalized while making up only 13% of the US population. As the number of lives lost to COVID-19 exceeds 100,000 within the nation, underrepresented communities continue to be disproportionately burdened and impacted by structural violence. There is a critical need to find culturally appropriate interventions that focus on reducing the impact of systemic racism on the health of marginalized communities.
For my practicum, I am currently working with a team of researchers at Duke in the SER (Salud, Estrés, y Resiliencia/Health, Stress, and Resilience) Hispano Project that studies the effects of acculturation stress and resilience on the health and wellbeing of Latinx immigrants in the Research Triangle Area. Research has shown that Latinx immigrants to the United States are generally healthier than the general US population upon arrival, but their health declines over time. However, there is a lack of research on how stress influences this phenomenon. The SER project focuses on generating new knowledge on how individual, family, and community resilience among the Latinx population buffers against acculturation stress and influences both psychological and physical health, thus informing future interventions to improve the health of the Latinx community. I will be assisting with conducting and coding qualitative interviews with members of the Latinx community and producing an analysis report and literature review. As a second generation Mexican-American, I strongly believe in the significance of the work I am doing this summer and the importance of practicing global health work in local contexts.
Adapting to a remote practicum has been a challenge, but I have been able to develop techniques to get me through the day. I rely on virtual check-ins with my practicum preceptor and remote team meetings to keep me motivated and in tune with my work. I have learned to be more flexible as well as kind to myself by acknowledging my own humanity and imperfections and taking everything a day at a time. Sometimes that means I do not have a perfect workplace set up, but being able to focus on the small moments of gratitude has helped me stay grounded. I find it is more important than ever to spend time out in nature, whether it is going on daily walks with my sister and two dogs, or just hanging out in my backyard hammock.