When I connected with my practicum preceptor in December, I was elated to have found an opportunity to gain field experience in the field of infectious disease prevention. Naya had set me up with a meeting with Dr. Ross Boyce, a researcher and infectious disease physician here at UNC-Chapel Hill. I would have had the opportunity to travel to Uganda to meet his collaborators in Bugoye and conduct my own research project on the ground. As I began preliminary research for the project, I was reminded of my passion for treating infectious disease spread through basic medical support and low-tech solutions such as bed nets.
When the global COVID tides began turning in February, we were able to have a discussion about what to do in case of restricted travel. I was lucky enough to be able to easily transition to a backup plan working with a different data set collected by the Bugoye team. My project is now working with data from a household survey investigating bed net use by children and their malaria status from over 2000 households in 36 villages across 6 parishes. So far, I have conducted an informal literature review to bring me up to speed on bed net use in Sub-Saharan Africa and have begun the basics of working with the data. I will soon be beginning work with Dr. Boyce’s colleagues in Health Geography who will aid me in developing a statistical analysis that incorporates proximity to health centers and map-making using GIS.
I am very disappointed that I am unable to travel to Bugoye myself. I was drawn to UNC largely because of the opportunity to pursue a hands-on practicum where I got to meet and work with public health researchers from different countries. However, work from home has forced me to learn an entirely different set of skills than I would not have learned spending the summer on field work. Working from home has forced me to teach myself all sorts of data handling skills that are all the more useful because I had to learn them on my own. I am also looking forward to working with researchers in geography and exploring geography as a public health tool.
In the meantime, my roommate and I have been quarantining in our home in Carrboro. We’ve been taking turns making meals and I have taken the time to practice baking. (I’m 100% that annoying friend who got way too into making sourdough.) My favorite thing I’ve made so far might be sourdough crêpes, which was a great way to use discard from the starter. Other quarantine hobbies have been biking, birdwatching, and growing tomatoes and herbs on my deck. (Seriously though, reach out if you’re into birds). I’ve also been able to explore the Carolina North Forest. It has been a great opportunity to get to know my immediate community better without the pressures of the semester timetable.
The highlight of my week is volunteering with the food relief organization PORCH Chapel Hill distributing food to nearly 500 Orange county families every Wednesday morning. I’ve even got a number of other Global Health classmates to join me. As the weather has gotten hotter it’s been even more difficult to wear a mask, but I hope we can all stay committed to preventing the spread of COVID even as states try to open up prematurely.