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

Category: Marlena

Wrapping Up

I am back in Chapel Hill, where I am self-quarantining for fourteen days as I wrap up my practicum. To complete my products, I am writing a report to summarize my work over the past two months, including a logic model describing the peer support program in the Dominican Republic, a literature review of the evidence base for such programs, and a compilation of instruments that are commonly used in evaluations of such programs.

View from my window while quarantining in Chapel Hill.

View from my window while quarantining in Chapel Hill.

I am grateful to my preceptor, the community health workers, doctors, and researchers from Chronic Care International who have been extremely resourceful, flexible, and patient in guiding me throughout my practicum. I have learned a lot about how to listen to and prioritize the needs of the community and organization while being mindful of the financial and time barriers they face. In some ways, working remotely has provided me with a unique opportunity to practice reflecting on my biases for my future work. Since I am not in the Dominican Republic because of the coronavirus-related travel constraints, I wonder if some opportunities for biases, such as those introduced from my perceptions of being in and experiencing a foreign country, are reduced. Instead of falling into a false sense of security about my knowledge of the context for having spent time there physically, it was easy to recognize that I know very little – for I have never even been to the Dominican Republic – and therefore needed to rely heavily on the word of local experts to describe the context, program, and patients, which is probably how it should always be anyway.

Marlena

On the Flip Side…

Right before spring break, my practicum plans fell through, so I rode the wave of disappointment earlier than everybody else and for reasons unrelated to the virus. With the possibilities for practica suddenly narrowed down, finding a position became a somewhat simpler task.

A forest floor covered in bärlauch, wild garlic that leaves a pungent scent in the air in the summer.

A forest floor covered in bärlauch, wild garlic that leaves a pungent scent in the air in the summer.

An opportunity matching my interests soon presented itself in the form of a collaborative project between Gillings and Chronic Care International, a non-profit based in Omaha, Nebraska, to assist in designing an evaluation for a diabetes peer support program in the Dominican Republic. I am currently working from home in Basel, Switzerland to develop a literature review describing the evidence base for the program and to compile a list of instruments that have been used to evaluate similar programs in the past. For now, I am mostly working independently, apart from a weekly afternoon meeting with my preceptor, so the time change has had minimal impact on my experience. I am learning to grapple with the unpredictability that seems common in low-resource settings. In the grand scheme of things during these tumultuous times, it is much easier for me to be relaxed when dealing with these manageable ambiguities as they present themselves.

A field of poppies overlooking Basel.

A field of poppies overlooking Basel.

For me, the pandemic has produced some positives. I had assumed that my practicum plans would inevitably conflict with my ability to spend the summer in my hometown with my family, which I try to weave into my summer plans as much as possible. When not working, I spend my time reading, exploring the hills on my bike, playing intense ping pong matches with my mom, taking walks through the forests and fields with my family, catching up with friends from home, and making the most of having an easily accessible piano to play (a true luxury!). I am grateful for the extra time I get to spend here in Basel, a place that I know I will not have the privilege of calling my home forever.

Marlena