Engaging Students in Thinking ‘Global Health’

The skills and knowledge I gained while working on the Senegal project not only challenged me in new ways but allowed me to use what I was learning in the classroom during my Master’s degree.

Being a part of the Senegal project played a critical role in my decision to pursue policy and law in the future. Having the opportunity to build upon my previous global health experience allowed me to gain a better understanding of the depth of global research and the role I want to play. Working as a Research Assistant (RA) for this project boosted my professional aspirations and was personally meaningful to me.

In my experience, the Master’s program puts the most emphasis on classes students have to take as part of the required curriculum. There is usually little time or opportunity to apply the skills learned in these courses. Practicums can provide a “real life” experience, however, they generally last short-term and lack the time required for students to fully grasp their projects. As Dr. Karen Peters’ RA for the Senegal Cervical Cancer Research Project, I improved my analytical skills and applied the theories I learned in the classroom to practice. I also gained a deeper understanding of quantitative data analysis.

This project allowed me to work on an international interdisciplinary team. Learning how to work effectively with a diverse team while overcoming obstacles and challenges is critical to my future career in public health research.

Working on this project from Chicago, analyzing the data, conducting literature reviews, and coordinating communications was a big opportunity in itself. Additionally, traveling to Senegal twice as a part of the research team was an invaluable experience. In Senegal, I was able to better grasp cultural difference and the barriers the research team faced. Having previously lived in Northern Africa, I understood some of the cultural differences and obstacles encountered when working in an international setting. Traveling to Senegal allowed me to not only better conceptualize the project, but to also learn new techniques for working with a diverse international team.

In addition to improving my skills as a public health professional and researcher, this project has helped me navigate my future career goals and aspirations. Witnessing the inequities in access to health care in Senegal first-hand was more impactful than reading about them. I observed the lack of access and barriers that local women face to receive cervical cancer screenings, something many women living in the US take for granted. Being a part of this research team and working to improve health care access has motivated me to continue studying policy and the impact that policies have on systems. In the future, I hope to pursue a J.D. with a focus on social justice and global health.

When I accepted the RA position with Dr. Peters 18 months ago, I had no idea it would have such impact on my life. I am so thankful for this opportunity to have worked with such a wonderful team. I look forward to staying involved in some capacity with the project. As I begin the next chapter of my life, I will take this project’s impact and the skills I gained with me to my next position.

About the image. The image was taken in Senegal by the project team.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tina Schuh is a recent Master of Public Health graduate of the University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health in Community Health Sciences. She is currently traveling throughout South East Asia before beginning a research associate position at the University of Washington in Seattle. Tina enjoys travel, photography and her dog which she misses terribly while she is away!