Graduation is coming!

Yes! Graduation is May 19th, but of course graduating comes with a new set of stressors: figuring out next steps and wrapping up coursework. Per my previous post, I ended up applying to six doctoral programs, mostly centered around health services research and health policy and management. To date, I have received three acceptances, two rejections, and the last is still pending.

This semester, I have defended my Master’s Thesis proposal and now working towards submitting it by mid-April. With acceptances, visiting schools, and my thesis work I have been in a slight state of confusion as I am deciding on where to go. Around 2 AM this morning, I took some time to read my statement of purpose for some motivation. I figured I would share a few paragraphs of the introduction as I have found that it is not an easy thing to articulate in 10 words or less while I am chatting with friends and family:

In the summer of 2017, I had the unique opportunity to propose and independently conduct National Cancer Institute funded research in Tanzania for three months. I conducted semi-structured interviews with original questions in Swahili related to barriers to secondary cervical lesion screenings and treatment in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where 50% of women with an initial positive cervical lesion screening are not seeking a verification screening or treatment, and 80% of women are suffering from late stage cervical cancer by the time they seek treatment. Through collaboration with three hospitals and trained local nurses, social workers, and social scientists we conducted 60 interviews. Since my return to the United States in August 2017, my research team and I are actively working to publish this work in a peer-reviewed journal and to disseminate the results to medical professionals at hospitals in Dar es Salaam. My goal is that the hospitals will use the findings to implement an intervention or develop new policies to reduce the cervical cancer mortality disparities between women in developed and underdeveloped nations.

This experience has played a crucial part in planning the next steps in my academic career as it tied together my complementary interests in research, community engagement, health promotion, and health equity. However, at the end of each interview women would often say something along the lines of, “I tell you all my business, what can you do to help me get the treatment I need?” I left Tanzania feeling troubled by my inability to influence upstream policy changes and population-level interventions that could reduce the onset of preventable conditions, and motivated me to gain the skillset needed to eliminate disparities. This experience helped to refine my research interests, and influenced my decision to pursue doctoral training that will put me in a position to influence actionable strategies to address disparities.

I am passionate about exposing and eliminating racial and ethnic, and gender disparities in access to high quality, preventive services, specifically the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination and cervical cancer screening, treatment, and control. Additionally, I am interested in exploring the role of structural racism on healthcare quality. My long-term career objective is to generate actionable scientific evidence that can improve the lives of minority, underrepresented, and underserved populations through research, practice, and policy change. My goal is to become an academic health equity scholar and educator, and to conduct and disseminate policy-focused research. Additionally, I recognize the lack of women of color in academia and I have had a difficult time identifying role models that have had similar lived experiences and perspectives as it relates to navigating academia as a black woman. Therefore, I aspire to be a culturally-competent and trustworthy researcher that is able to engage marginalized populations in research while playing an integral role in mentoring the next generation of researchers, especially scholars of color and women.

Essentially, in 10 words or less (or 19), I want to be an advocate for vulnerable communities and mentor the next generation of scholars and change agents.