As the end of summer quickly approaches, I have had the opportunity to slow down and reflect on my global health experience. For me and the rest of my cohort, the end of this internship also marked the conclusion of our time at Gillings in the MPH/RD program. Graduation was celebrated over Zoom, which was a bit more bitter than sweet due to no real closure or proper goodbyes. Despite this unexpected ending, I am thankful for the community I found at UNC and am sure many of us will cross paths in the future.
The COVID-19 pandemic also drastically changed my plans this summer which had involved traveling to Cebu, Philippines to conduct qualitative research related to infant feeding practices. When travel restrictions went into effect, I had to quickly change my research plans to fit into the new ‘work from home’ structure. My global health experience this summer ended up consisting of regular Zoom meetings with my preceptor, secondary data analysis, and writing a research paper. I was able to utilize data from the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey which has over 30 years of infant feeding data spanning two generations of mothers and their children living in Cebu, Philippines. With this data, I studied the association of maternal education with breastfeeding practices across the two generations of mother-infant pairs. Although this experience did lack a “hands on” component in another country, I did gain a lot of useful skills that I can take with me into my future career. I was able to learn and improve many skills this summer including evaluating existing literature and putting it into the context of my research project, learning data analysis methods in Stata (a statistical software), communicating data analysis in a research paper format, and preparing the paper for submission for publication in a peer reviewed journal. My global health experience was nothing like I could have imagined, but I leave with many new skills that I am eager to use as I begin my public health career.