The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us to change our attitudes and behaviors radically, as both students of public health and members of society. Together, we are bound by our collective anxieties and feelings of uncertainty. As students of the field, many of us have been frustrated with the shortcomings of our country’s infrastructure and feel overwhelmed as we take note of areas which call for improvement. Some of us have felt a personal sense of responsibility to contribute to the response at home, whether that be to volunteer at our local health department or learn how to make DIY face masks from Pinterest. Regardless of which emotion is most predominant on any given day, each of us feels a great sense of confidence as we see how necessary our skills are during these trying times.
Like other students planning a global practicum, I was disappointed when I learned that my position in Zambia would be shifted to remote work. However, I am grateful that through the UNC Gillings Zambia Hub under the mentorship of Dr. Stephanie Martin, I am able to work with an issue which I am so passionate about. I will be working with the Scaling Up Nutrition Learning and Evaluation project (SUN-LE) which provides survey, research, evaluation, and dissemination services to Zambia’s Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) program. SUN aims to reduce childhood stunting in Zambia through nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions. I will be working to provide quantitative and qualitative analyses of the cross-sectional baseline survey as well as key informant interviews to identify key indicators of childhood stunting.
By establishing routines, setting internal deadlines, and scheduling virtual check-ins with my preceptor, I hope to make my practicum experience feel as “normal” as possible – but that’s not to say that it won’t come with challenges. My wily four-month old German Shepherd/Lab (mutt) puppy named Tanooki forces me to break up my day with periodic sprints to the mailbox and back – but I’ve been relishing in all outdoor activities. From running and biking on the American Tobacco Trail, to fishing (so far, without success) at Jordan Lake and swinging in my backyard hammock, I have come to appreciate now more than ever how essential fresh air and movement is for my productivity and overall sense of wellbeing.