Rebecca Duerst, a second-year MPH Global Health Concentration student and the recipient of a Douglas Passaro Global Horizons Scholarship, traveled to Hyderabad, India during summer 2011. Rebecca worked to address family planning issues, to provide immunization services and update vaccination data, and she conducted research related to diphtheria vaccination.
In what way did this experience enhance or change your career goals?
My experience in India was the first opportunity I had to work in the field of global health. I learned so many valuable lessons that I will carry with me into my future career. After I graduate, I hope to work long-term in developing countries, and this experience solidified the direction in which I would like my career path to take
What was the most valuable thing you learned through this experience?
I learned the value of working with members of the local community and trusting in their ability to get things done and get them done well. When conducting research in other countries, it’s important to let the local people take the lead and have the final say in the research process.
How do you think this experience will prepare you for work in the field of global health?
This experience gave me a very positive first taste of working in the field of global health. It has helped prepare me for a future career by giving me a firsthand understanding of the health issues that are faced in developing countries and strategies to overcome these issues.
How did your perspectives or worldview change as a result of this experience?
Working in India has made me even more aware of the benefits of working with people who are different from us. When we use everyone’s unique abilities and contributions, we can make positive changes that are relevant and sustainable.
What got you interested in this field of research or project?
I have always been interested in vaccine-preventable diseases; I used to do basic laboratory research in vaccine development. After serving as a volunteer teacher in Namibia for two years, and meeting so many people with diseases that could have been prevented, I decided to go into global health with a focus on infectious disease.
What is your hope for the impact of your research?
India has the highest number of diphtheria cases in the world. We are hoping that with a better understanding of people’s knowledge and beliefs about diphtheria and diphtheria vaccination, we will be able to develop educational material that will improve vaccination rates and prevent the spread of diphtheria in India.