A year ago, research to me was synonymous with pipettes, microscopes, and long days on my feet. A year ago, I was checking my email frequently to make sure my GHAC acceptance wasn’t an accident or mistake. A year ago, I had no idea what I was capable of doing or what was ultimately possible in the setting of a pandemic. Today, I am conducting amazing research from behind my computer screen and looking back fondly at the completion of my first year of medical school, though the imposter syndrome creeps in now and again. I am working with Dr. Sarah Averbach and Dr. Anita Raj, of UCSD’s Center on Gender Equity and Health, and our international colleagues, to analyze measures of contraceptive decision-making and their association with contraceptive use outcomes among married women in rural Maharashtra, India.
Four weeks into my GHAC summer research rotation, I am overwhelmed by a bittersweet feeling. On one hand, here in SoCal, we are living in a bubble. I can hug my vaccinated family and friends with minimal concern, grab coffee at my favorite coffee shop, and take weekend trips. However, as I enjoy the positive changes that have occurred since the start of the pandemic, I adjust my perspective to consider why I am here in the first place — I am conducting my GHAC research remotely because the COVID-19 pandemic continues to devastate India and countless other parts of the world. Inequitable global vaccine distribution weighs heavily on my mind as I work at a privileged distance from the issue. I try to keep in mind that the data I am working with, each number, represents a woman and her lived experiences.
Here in San Diego, working with an all-female research team on a global women’s health project, I started to notice an interesting pattern. Aside from my research, I’ve also had the opportunity to shadow Obstetrics and Gynecology and continue to serve in our Free Clinic as a co-manager for the Downtown Women’s Specialty Clinic. Across these opportunities, all of the patients, team members, mentors and superiors I have worked with have been women. This wasn’t intentional, but it’s been an incredibly unique and positive experience for me. [Cue: “Who Run the World (Girls)” by Beyonce]. As someone who is interested in women’s health, I feel really lucky to have so many female role models in the field who inspire me each day. This environment has made me feel like part of a community and has gifted me with meaningful conversations and connections with those around me.
Outside of research, shadowing, and Free Clinic, I’ve been spending quality time with family, old friends and new friends. In my free time I’ve been joining classmates for karaoke, dinners, and movie nights. I also had a 24-hour camping adventure in Joshua Tree — not very strategically, as I was there on a day with record-breaking heat!
The summer is off to a great start, and I’m trying to savor each moment. Thankfully, this global health experience won’t be my last. Perhaps I will find myself in India for my fourth year GHAC rotation! I am looking forward to discovering what the future holds for not only myself and our colleagues, but also for the field of global health.