Where I've been and where I'm going

Time has flown by since my last update and I didn't intend for 4 months to go by before sharing how my experience in Tanzania ended. To be honest, I was pretty troubled for a variety of reasons. The experience rocked my world.  I came home with little time to process before diving in my last fall semester and figuring out my next steps as quickly as possible since my plan was to apply to doctoral programs. When I left in May I was 1000% confident that I'd be applying to someone's PhD in Social Epidemiology program. Long story short, this summer was a wake up call as Epidemiology wouldn't have trained me in the way I needed. I think that explains the internal and external struggles I was facing while working with seasoned epidemiologists this summer. This is by no means a generalization, but in my experience this summer, it seemed like larger samples and statistical significance had greater value than what I had proposed to do, which was explain why half of Tanzanian women with suspected cervical lesions were not seeking follow-up or treatment. All in all, I think it jaded my view of what a career in academia looked like for me. 

Going back to the project itself, I came home to all of my transcriptions. As promised, Dr. John had then in my inbox by the time I landed in D.C. However, they are summarized transcriptions and I am not going to be able to qualitatively analyze them as I had hoped. My total sample consisted on 60 women and their stories. I am extremely pleased with this and I plan on spending time over the winter break to complete my analysis and a come up with a game plan for dissemination. 

What's next?

I don't know yet. As I alluded to earlier, I was very confused about how I would approach my doctoral applications. Essentially, I wanted to do more than expose disparities through data analysis and interpretation. I wanted to go a step further and conduct research that can explain disparities but also influence change through health and policy interventions. For those reasons, I been focusing on applying to Ph.D. programs related to health Policy & management and health services research.

Lessons Learned

Ultimately, I've learned that I am exceptional. And I've continued to be as exceptional as possible regardless of all of the hurdles and risks that I've taken. My confidence took a hard hit this summer and in the last few months as I've been preparing to submit my doctoral applications and figure out life after graduation. I spent the entire summer advocating for myself and the women in my study and it was hard. I am very proud of what me and my team accomplished, given the short time frame, limited resources, a very hard to reach population, and my language barrier. 

But since my return, I've been told to either postpone doctoral study or to avoid it all together "and just get a job" because "I have no experience and I'm no researcher" and it shows because "of my small sample size" and "no publications". Even after securing an NCI grant, implementing, and completing a study in Tanzania for a very hard to reach population of women. Even after, I was accepted to give an oral presentation at the 2017 APHA conference. Even after, telling anyone who would listen that I enrolled into my MPH program with full intentions of enrolling in a Ph.D. program soon after. I've learned that this experience with nay-sayers won't be my last and lastly, although I am sick and tired of being told "no", I now know how to recognize them in the future.

I'd like to thank and acknowledge my friends Khadija, Stacey, Taylor, Elizabeth, and Flora for all of the time they invested in me and this project. I wouldn't have made it without the love and support you all showed me. Asante sana dadas.