Students and global health experts share their experiences working with communities.

Category: Claire

Family Time and The Final Stages

Wearing a mask at RDU.

Wearing a mask at RDU.

I can’t believe it’s already September. For the most part, I remain in Carrboro with my roommate, only seeing a tiny social circle. I’m still on the sourdough bread making train and successfully grew a small handful of tomatoes on my back porch.

I took a break from my work in mid-July to visit my family in Massachusetts. Flying was not so bad – RDU was pretty empty and everyone wore masks. In Massachusetts, I was able to easily obtain a negative Covid rapid test (results in about 2 hours!) so that I was able to also visit some family in Connecticut. My mom, my sisters, and I drove down to see my cousin and her new baby (7 weeks!), her brother and his two babies (7 months and 3 years), their spouses, my aunt and uncle, and my grandmother. My family then drove up to Maine where we spent the week on Mount Desert Island, close to where my dad grew up. We spent the week hiking, biking, and swimming, perfect outdoor activities to stay apart from other people. Acadia National Park is amazing. In birding news, I saw some Common Eiders, three Bald Eagles, and a Black Guillemot in Maine.

My mom, my two sisters, and I on a bike ride on the Acadia National Park carriage trails.

My mom, my two sisters, and I on a bike ride on the Acadia National Park carriage trails.

My birthday cake! I celebrated 25 years with my family on August 6th.

My birthday cake! I celebrated 25 years with my family on August 6th.

With regards to my practicum, I am currently working on wrapping up the final stages of our project. I am currently drafting a write-up of my data analysis results and discussion in the form of a manuscript. As a refresher, my practicum is conducting a data analysis on a household survey in rural Western Uganda. The survey looked at bed net use and malaria status in children while collecting geographic factors. With Varun Goel from the geography department, we have looked at the relationship between geographic factors, bed net use, and malaria status. By showing that malaria is rare at high elevations, we can provide evidence for more effective distribution of malaria prevention efforts. By examining who owns bed nets, we can show that people in the most rural areas are underserved by bed net distribution through health centers.

Enjoying the slightly cooler weather on my front porch.

Enjoying the slightly cooler weather on my front porch.

Although I’ve encountered some delays along the way, it’s been incredibly rewarding to take an analysis from start to finish. I’ve always known that I was terrible at work-from-home, and this summer has been no exception. Starting up classes has been great for my productivity because I love having more routine. As the weather just begins to cool off, I’m also enjoying returning to my favorite cafes to enjoy their well-spaced outdoor seating.

I’m also  really enjoying my classes this semester. I’m taking One Health, mHealth, and Pandemics in addition to my concentration courses, Implementation Science for Global Health and Professional Development. It’s been really nice to have lots of opportunity to work on topics I’m really interested in.

Stay Safe,

Claire M. Côté

Different Set of Skills

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.

My home workspace.

My home workspace.

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.

Rachel and Hannah from Global Health checking in families receiving free food at PORCH.

Rachel and Hannah from Global Health checking in families receiving free food at PORCH.

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.

Filling up food boxes at PORCH at the Chapel Hill Public Library.

Filling up food boxes at PORCH at the Chapel Hill Public Library.

Stay Safe,

Claire