I was looking forward to my practicum even before I was accepted into the MPH program. As a marine biologist transitioning to public health, I knew the practicum would be essential for me to establish myself in the global health field. I dreamed of doing my practicum at an international humanitarian agency in Amman, Jordan and spending the summer with my family there. Just as soon as I had secured a position there in March, all international travel was restricted. As an aspiring global health professional, I was so disappointed to be confined to my home state for the summer.
It certainly felt like a loss at the time, but I quickly realized the loss was not just mine. With the world in a chronic state of emergency, you quickly learn to let go of your plans and expectations. You eventually stop mourning all the events, activities, trips and travels you were supposed to take. Instead, you yearn to merely be able to safely see your friends and family. You stop touching your face and start second guessing every cough.
Fast forward five months, I am in the last week of my practicum with only a week left before the fall semester begins. While my original practicum dreams dissolved, I was granted an amazing opportunity to do work I am extremely passionate. I am working with my faculty mentor (something which would not have been possible pre-COVID19) on a research project which examines the breastfeeding experiences of internally displaced Yazidi mothers in Iraq. The Yazidi are a Kurdish ethnic minority who were brutally and systematically targeted by the Islamic State (ISIS) in August 2014. Over a matter of days, 2.5% of the Yazidi population was either killed or kidnapped. Now globally recognized as a genocide, the events of 2014 have forever changed the lives and futures of this community. Through this project, we hope to better understand the unique challenges and needs of Yazidi women to ultimately improve the humanitarian response for displaced pregnant and breastfeeding women and their infants. Not only I am getting to work with a Middle Eastern population, I am also developing qualitative data analysis and manuscript drafting skills, all the while learning about a new topic area with which I was previously unfamiliar. A resounding theme that has stood out from this research is resilience. With so many tragedies constantly confronting the world today, my spirit is continually renewed by the resilience and strength of human beings. It’s a powerful reminder that nothing is ever guaranteed and that we must be grateful for every new opportunity and every new day.