CPH Students Learn from World’s Leading Infectious Diseases Researchers
Two weeks sequestered in ‘real life’ laboratories and communities, including the Amazonian region of Brazil, might not sound appealing to most of us, but to the four graduate and 10 undergraduate students studying communicable diseases that constitute public health risks, it was a dream come true.
Since 2010, Dr. Mark James, CPH Department Chair and Director of Global Health Initiatives/Latin America, has established six important partnerships in Colombia. Recently, a partnership was established with the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, or Fiocruz, of Brazil, an organization dedicated to research and technological development projects for major public health diseases and issues such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, measles, rubella, meningitis, hepatitis, as well as violence and climate change. Now the organization is focused on the emerging Zika virus. This year marks the inaugural trip for students from CPH to Brazil.
“This immersion initiative provides students the opportunity to learn from the world’s leading scientists about the mechanism of diseases and transmission, comparative health systems, and vaccine development,” explains Dr. James. “Students tour research facilities, hospitals and clinics and attend lectures focusing on tropical diseases of Latin America delivered by the lead authors from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation.”
“The trip took what I have learned in my favorite Public Health classes and applied this information to the real world,” said Clair Yee, BSPH/MPH student. “I believe it is very important to study diseases in their natural habitat. In Manaus we followed a public health worker making his rounds in a peri-urban community to take blood samples to test for malaria. We could see how people live versus just reading about it in a textbook. It really brought the disease and its impact on public health to life. We saw the residents’ overall living conditions—that they could either bathe in murky water filled with tires or not bathe at all, for instance. We never would have understood the impact that living conditions have on the severity of malaria had we stayed in a class room.”
Jelena Debelnogich, (Fall '17) said that the trip has inspired her to participate in the projects discussed in the lectures. She said, “It has been the best experience of my life so far and the opportunities we had gave me a new found passion for public health. The information learned, friends made, and the places discovered should be the reason future students choose this adventure.”