Laura Saucier

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MSc in Global Health, University of California San Francisco

Kisumu , 5th May – 8th June 2015

Western Kenya is beautiful in the rainy season. A deep, lush green blankets rock-strewn hills, hugs the shores of Lake Victoria, and contrasts brilliantly against thick red East African mud. Billowing clouds float lazily across patchwork fields, and a million different birds dart and dip and soar. Evening storms bring sweet-smelling rain that either patters gently through the trees or crashes so violently that the torrential deluge striking a roof obscures virtually every other sound. You always know when a storm is coming. The clouds darken and gusts of wind start tossingpalm fronds; then, flashes of lightening begin to illuminate the sky whiledeafening claps interrupt the soft, nearly continuous rumble of thunder. I absolutely loved these storms, and will surely miss them when I return to parched California.

I enjoyed my time in Kisumu immensely. And the storms weren’t even the best part. In fact, I don’t think I can pinpoint a “best” part. The people, the research, the daily routine, the weekend activities… it all ofcombined to make for an extraordinary experience. A typical day started around 5:45am, just in time to see the sunrise from our third floor balcony. Then a five or six mile run around Milimani, along Lake Victoria, and through Dunga village. Eggs, toast, and fresh fruit for breakfast. A forty minute walks to FACES. Data management, adjudication, and meetings for much of the day, with a break for beans and chapatti around noon. Then a walk home with a quick stop at Jeff’s produce stand and maybe Tusky’s grocery store. Dinner, reading, writing, some coding…and then bed! But not all days were typical, especially weekends. My two favorite just-for-fun activities were the weekend trip to Kakamega rainforest and a day hike to Monkey rock.

The FACES community is warm and welcoming. Together with the THINK2 research team, Iwas able to be productive while still enjoying many laughs and enriching conversations every day.Led by Dr. Ana-Claire Meyer, THINK2 is a longitudinal study that follows patients with varying degrees of HIV-associated neurocognitive impairment through a year of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), assessing various clinical and socioeconomic outcomes. My role in the project is to clean and analyze a subset of the data in order to explore the relationship between cognitive impairment and medication adherence. Through STEP, I’ve had the privilege to benefit from excellent mentorship, to gain invaluable experience in global neurology, and to learn a great deal of useful data management and analytic skills. In a couple months, I will be starting my final year of medical school, and applying for residency in pediatric neurology. Given my plans to pursue a career in academic medicine at the intersection of global health and neurology, this experience with FACES has certainly helped advance my learning objectives and future goals.

 

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