Research and health have always been my passions. During my undergraduate studies, I worked in the infectious disease laboratory at the University of Wisconsin Hospital under Dr. Christopher Crnich. With his guidance, I explored the world of research by drafting grant proposals, aiding in research design, and completing drafts of Institutional Review Board paperwork. Working in the lab I learned the values of consistency, dependability, and attention to detail. My duties included processing specimens, identifying bacterial specimens by classifying growth on selective medium plates, and performing Gram stains and catalase tests. I presented my research findings for transmission factors associated with Methicillan-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in patients at the 2008 University of Wisconsin-Madison Undergraduate Research Symposium and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison 2008 Zoology Symposium.
My time spent in the infectious disease laboratory was an asset in preparing me for my Peace Corps experience. The first ten weeks of my journey I lived with a host family in Namaacha, a town located in southern Mozambique. Like most families in Mozambique, my host family was missing a father. He had died of pneumonia following a long battle with HIV/AIDS. After the passing of her husband, my host mother was required to have sex with her husband’s brother in order to cleanse herself, a common and acceptable practice across many regions of Africa. As a result of this cleansing, my host brother came into this world. The entire family is infected with HIV and without access to healthcare and medicine they will become another devastating statistic in Mozambique.
My experience in Mozambique opened my eyes to the harmful effects caused by lack of education. I spent months working with people who believe HIV is transmitted by eating oranges, shaking hands, and sharing utensils and clothing. Hygiene and sanitation issues are readily dismissed as irrelevant American concepts. I realized I needed additional skills and further training in order to help improve hygiene and sanitation and provide a proper education on how HIV is transmitted. I also came to understand that a people’s culture and traditions create barriers to making these improvements. I hope to learn to bridge the gap between health, education, and culture.
The culmination of my experiences have morphed into a strong desire to dedicate my life to improving the health of the people I saw struggling to survive in Mozambique. It is my goal to assist the Mozambicans I encountered with the knowledge and understanding of sanitary practices and proper hygiene so they can prevent transmission of disease. By pursuing a Masters in Public Health, I will gain a better foundation in rationale, design, and implementation. With these skills, I will be able to effectively teach the importance of a healthy lifestyle and improve the health and well-being of the population.