Sweta, second-year Epidemiology-Biostatistics Global Health Concentration MS student, was the recipient of a Douglas Passaro Global Horizons Scholarship. Sweta conducted her MS research in Bajura, Nepal where she partnered with CARE Nepal during the summer of 2014. She used a self-designed research study to measure the prevalence of sexually transmitted infection (STI) symptoms and explored the association between STI symptoms and husband migrant worker status among women.
What about the Global Health Concentration at UIC made its greatest impact on you and how did it prepare you for a global practicum?
The global health faculty member’s passion has made a lasting impact and inspired me to continue my global health work. I am also very appreciative of the unwavering support I received from the global health program and my peers.
What was the most valuable thing you learned through your global professional experience?
One of the most valuable things I learned is that people in rural areas of Nepal have been promised a lot by politicians and development organizations for many years, but not always kept the promise. The numerous women I interacted with taught me that it is important for us to keep this fact in mind and to follow through with sustainable practices and involve the community in everything I do as I continue further work in this field.
How did this experience prepare you for work in public health?
I was able to develop a study protocol, design a standardized survey, obtain IRB and Nepal Health Research Council approval, train research assistants, analyze the data, and write manuscripts, which have all prepared me for the work that I will be doing after I graduate. I will also be presenting my findings at global health conferences and to various stakeholder in Nepal and will work towards making evidence driven change. Interviewing women myself also allowed me to have a deeper understanding of sociocultural vulnerabilities and challenges that have yet to be addressed. Overall, this experience enabled me to apply epidemiologic skills, further my understanding of global health challenges, and identify my role as a global health epidemiologist.
How did your perspectives or worldview change as a result of this experience?
The field experience and the global health education I received from this program has taught me to become more critical of the global health field and the public health programs that we implement and to never undermine the voices of the community we are working with.
In what way did this experience enhance or change your career goals?
My experience in rural Nepal has reinforced my goal to move to Nepal to continue working to work towards improving sexual and reproductive health.
What advice would you give to current global health students?
I would tell students that course work alone is not enough and that it is imperative to gain global health experience. It is important to find an advisor who encourages your work and will guide you to make your goals possible. Lastly, UIC has great scholarships and nobody seeking global health experience should be deterred by the cost.