Now that I have cooled off, let’s talk.

Two weeks ago or so, I posted a status about how I was extremely overwhelmed and frustrated. I actually wrote a lengthy and detailed blog post about everything I had experienced with work that week. I clicked “publish” and  *poof* went the Internet. Naturally, I was mad about that but honestly it was definitely for the best. It wouldn’t have been the most professional thing I’ve ever written – It was very angry and blunt reflection titled, "Unapologetically meticulous".

All I will say is that I strongly believe that my gender (woman vs. man), nationality (American vs. Native), and ethnicity or perceived ethnicity (they refused to acknowledge my identity of as an “African American” so they refer to be as “Black American”) is playing a huge role in the lack of respect I have received and it is reflective in the progress and maybe the quality of my project, in my opinion. I have strong feelings about that but if you’d like to hear more, I’d love to clarify in-person when I get back to the States.

More objectively, here’s what’s going on with my project:

Recruitment: 203 women are eligible for my study. To be eligible a women would have received a positive VIA result in 2015 and 2016 at either the Magomeni Clinic or the Temeke Hospital AND were referred to Ocean Road Cancer Institute for a follow-up screening.

Support: After my birthday, my research assistant Flora was hospitalized and will no longer be working with me. Last week, I was introduced to a nurse, Elizabeth who will be serving as my new research assistant (RA). Before I realized Flora was sick I was already lobbying for a second RA because as I mentioned I have to make 203 and in an effort to eliminate selection bias, we need to make three attempts for each number at different points in the week and day. Meaning that is potentially over 600 phone calls and I have almost 3 weeks left :).  Last week, I trained Elizabeth on my IRB protocol and taught her how to use my audio recorder. She loved it once she got the hang off it. She asked me how much they cost (Here, they are $100-$250… I know because I wanted to buy a second one) and I promised to give her mine once we finished. You should have seen her face! Also wanted to add that before the training, we talked a lot about our families and while we were talking about that I guess she noticed my tragus piercing. She abruptly stopped talking, grabbed my face to turn my head, and looked at my right ear. I couldn’t tell you whether or not she approved of it but it happened! Anywho, she’s been great, she plans to continue dedicating her evenings and weekends to the project until we have completed the list. So far she has completed almost 15 interviews and nearly finished half of our list in barely a week. We meet every other day to check-in on her progress, talk about her observations, and address ways to probe specific themes as they come. Administratively, I copy the new audio files from the recorder to my laptop and flash drive, collect and scan completed questionnaires, compile audio files with de-dentified questionnaires (hey IRB hey!) and send to my preceptors and newfound transcriber and translator.

Troubleshooting & Problem Solving: Elizabeth called me this morning (which prompted this post because troubleshooting and problem solving happens on a regular basis) and told me she had a problem. I went to work and found her (I thought she wiped the audio recorder accidentally or something of that nature), she was really worried and told me she was in an accident, her phone no longer works, AND the audio recorder wasn’t working (as she opens the empty battery compartment and digs out of one the AAA batteries from her purse). Remember how happy she was about the recorder earlier? Imagine having to tell someone you broke it. She was terrified. You know my first thought was it has to be the battery, at least, I was praying that was the issue. I reassured her that it had to be the battery and if not, we can figure it out. I tried to plug it into Macbook and it turned on and I transferred the new files (#smallvictories)! I went to the grocery store and purchased a pack of AAA batteries for about $1.50 and voila, the recorder works! Another small victory. As you can imagine, Elizabeth was praising the Lord that everything was okay. I asked her more about her accident because I was surprised she was even at work. She told me she was on the back of a “piki piki” (motorcycle)… I was warned to never get on them so there’s no need to explain further. I’m just glad she’s okay. The next problem is her phone. I texted my preceptor and told him what happened and proposed we buy her a small phone so we can continue. He agreed and hopefully she has it tomorrow morning. We shall see!

Miscellaneous thoughts: After hearing brief summaries of some of the interviews I think unintentionally uncovered some controversial themes and I have been warned that I may have to fight to publish all of my findings. My project is basically an assessment of the community needs. Knowing the needs will be helpful for designing interventions or policy change in the future to help Tanzanian women. Now I’m left wondering, what do researchers do in this situation? I want to be transparent for the sake for influencing an effective intervention but what do you do if you are receiving pushback?