Mary Gates Research Scholar, Winter 2021
Research Project: Opt4Mamas & Opt4Kids: Optimizing viral suppression through point-of-care viral load and drug resistance mutation testing
Project Description: Our study uses quantitative and qualitative research methods to determine the feasibility and impact of point-of-care viral load and targeted drug resistance mutation testing to improve viral suppression in pregnant and postpartum mothers and children on antiretroviral therapy in Kisumu County, western Kenya. I am conducting qualitative analysis on interview transcripts from providers, adolescents, and pregnant and post-partum women.
What have you learned throughout your research project?
This project has helped me better understand the scope of global health inequity—the details of how women and children living with HIV are affected by social factors and issues of structural inequality: poverty, the lack of available medications, stigma, and denial. This project has taught me how vital it is to view patient health in its entirety, shaping the type of healthcare worker I hope to be in my future. As well, I have learned that collaboration in research is a necessary component for successful global health research. Receiving constant feedback from Kenyan-based physicians and researchers has helped shape how I am telling the story of the women and children on the project. I am very grateful for my mentors—the sense of ownership and a level of respect given to me on this project has changed the way I view myself as a researcher. I feel empowered to share my opinions, feedback, and concerns, and I have learned the value of bringing my voice to the table.
What piece of advice do you have for future applicants?
I would encourage future applicants to not hesitate to make the application statement personal! Before you begin writing your statement, I would recommend taking some time to reflect on why you are interested in conducting research and pursuing your specific research project (i.e. was there a specific experience that piqued your interest in research? Is there a personal reason why you want to pursue your project?). I found that shaping my statement on my identity, personal experiences, and future goals gave my statement a direction and made it a little more interesting to read. I would also recommend attending the information sessions and writing workshops—this helped me figure out what to emphasize in my statement.