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Leslie Carnahan

Leslie Carnahan

Leslie Carnahan, a second-year Community Health Sciences and Global Health Concentration MPH student, received an MS/MPH scholarship.  She completed her practicum in Ghana during summer 2011 and worked on a Millennium Villages project to address postpartum hemorrhage in women.

In what way did this experience enhance or change your career goals?

My practicum experience in Ghana allowed me to gain tangible and practical experience in the field of global health.  I was able to apply some of the skills that I had learned during my first year in the Community Health Science program.  While working in a Millennium Village, I interacted and networked with individuals from various NGOs and governmental organizations in an operations research project.  Additionally, I had the opportunity to engage with local community members on the project. 

What was the most valuable thing you learned through this experience?

The most valuable thing that I learned through this experience was to be flexible!  Working in extremely rural conditions in the rainy season can lead to things that one cannot necessarily plan for, such as collapsed bridges, flooded roadways, and broken down cars.  This made sticking to a “schedule” much more difficult.  That being said, there were certain objectives that had to be fulfilled for the project, so the team had to think quickly and creatively almost all of the time. 

How do you think this experience will prepare you for work in the field of global health?

This experience will prepare me for work in the field of global health because I can go to an employer and present my experience to them.   Working in a global setting presents challenges that are difficult to navigate.  It is important to take the time to think critically about these differences and work within different systems.  Having the experience on the ground is different and I feel a prospective employer would understand and appreciate the experiences and knowledge that I gained as a student working in the field.

How did your perspectives or worldview change as a result of this experience?

As a result of this trip, I feel fortunate in that my worldview was broadened.  This was my first trip to Africa, and it was so exciting to be in a new part of the world.  When I travel, I like to prepare by reading about a country’s history, current politics, and learn a few conversational phrases so that I have a bit of a perspective before arrival.  Beyond that, I try to leave as much room to soak up as many experiences as I can:  food, new friends, taking public transportation, exploring the city or village. 

What got you interested in this field of research or project?

I came to UIC SPH with the intention of gaining skills to work in global health, and particularly issues concerning women’s health.  Fortunately, I was able to secure a research assistantship that focused on these interests. I worked with the Principal Investigator of the project to engage in hands-on monitoring of the research project.  This trip was also a culmination of my year-long engagement with the Ghana project.  Because of this, I had a vested interest in the project and had already formed relationships with the global team. 

 What is your hope for the impact of your research?

Ultimately, my hopes for the impact of the research that I took part in, is that the health of women in low-resource rural settings is improved, specifically by preventing postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) after childbirth.  Women in these settings have poorer health outcomes and bear the burden of the majority of maternal mortality in the world.  It is my hope that this work will provide a basis and model for preventing deaths and ultimately reduce maternal mortality ratios in low-resource countries where many women continue to deliver in their homes without a skilled attendant. 

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