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.
A screen shot of my Zoom graduation
By Shannon Applegate
In February, I bought a plane ticket to travel across the world to embark on a 10-week research experience. In March, the world shut down. This pandemic is a true representation of how connected, yet disconnected we are as a human race. The coronavirus has impacted every country but misinformation, denial, and lack of unity between countries persists. Public health research and interventions are needed now more than ever as this virus affects so many and health disparities increase.
The new normal… wearing a mask while taking a nature break with my dog.
Many people, including me, are now having to transition to working from home. I had originally planned to travel to Cebu, Philippines this summer to complete a research project at the Office of Population Studies (OPS) at the University of San Carlos. While I am no longer able to travel to Cebu to complete a formal qualitative research component, I will still be researching the same topic using data from the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey (CLHNS), a collaboration project between UNC Chapel Hill and the University of San Carlos. The CLHNS is an ongoing study that has over 30 years of data from a now multigenerational cohort. The longitudinal study covers a wide range of topics including infant feeding practices, reproductive histories, socioeconomic factors, environmental factors, schooling outcomes, and more. With the mentorship of Dr. Linda Adair, I will be exploring the primary barriers to exclusive breastfeeding within this cohort. The unique multigenerational study will allow me to look at determinants of breastfeeding, such as education attainment and household income level, across generations and time.
My work from home set up.
The current pandemic has caused this internship to look a bit different than expected, including using Zoom regularly to meet with Dr. Adair to discuss my project. We are able to share screens to look at the data sets together in Stata. I complete my work at home at my kitchen table where I am lucky enough to have reliable Wi-Fi, a laptop, and a quiet environment to focus. I like to split up my day by taking my dog on walks through nearby neighborhoods and trails and enjoying an afternoon tea or coffee. I am excited to continue my research and am thankful that I am still able to complete this internship during the pandemic.