School of Public Health
Research study on mental health issues facing Nepali widows
The student will continuing our ongoing research collaboration with "Women for Human Rights", a single women's group (WHR), which advocates for widow's rights in Nepal. We are planning to collect 1) qualitative data to investigate the effects of sexual restrictions on young widow's mental health, 2) quantitative data to validate a measure of prolonged grief among widows.
Global Health Mentor/PI: Pamela Surkan, ScD, PhD
My field experience was extremely insightful about the differences that exist between expectations, academic preparedness versus the ground realities of conducting global health. Having only had an academic background, I had initially expected things to move quickly and along the timeline that was prepared in the IRB. However, my biggest take away from the placement was things do not always move as planned because you need to coordinate with different stakeholders, who may or may not follow the guidelines that you had initially planned for. Especially when it the case of getting local IRB approvals, given the lack of clear and prompt communication of their part, my project was pushed back a whole month and a half, leaving me with little to do.
My other instructive experiences about working in global health were maintaining healthy local partner relationships and managing funds. In terms of budgeting, I realized that things can get a bit over-budget as sometimes there are unforeseen circumstances that arise in the implementation of a project. Even little things like hiring a translator can add a significant expenditure, if not monitored well. Additionally, maintaining a transparent partner relationship, where all the stakeholders are aware of their own roles and expectations from the very beginning is quintessential to avoid conflicts later. One of the partners in my project was very reluctant to move forward with the JHSPH partnership because they had not communicated their needs from the beginning of a multi-year partnership. Nevertheless, I discovered that I had the ability to negotiate through clear communication about what the partnership could provide for all the stakeholders that a resolution was reached that enabled us to move forward. Therefore, I discovered that prompt feedback from the partners and periodic check-in with all stakeholders about expectations is extremely important for local partners to feel as involved in our projects.
Lastly, developing a close relationship with not just your PI but also your local supervisors is a must if you want to get the most out of the placement. In my case, not only was Dr. Surkan very concerned about my learning experience and let me have significant input in the planning and management of the study, but she was always available via email and weekly Skype to check in on me. Also my local supervisor was an invaluable mentor who taught me “how not to conduct global health research”, correcting me and teaching me about the locally and culturally appropriate ways to do public health research.