There are so many things that I truly love about my internship placement site, Population Council. As I finish just my fourth week here, I already feel like a part of the team. They have welcomed me in as if I was a part of the Council family, incorporating me into several staff and stakeholder meetings and project update presentations. These meetings have allowed me to gain real-world experience with how several partners work together to implement an intensive, multi-faceted project like that of AGI-K. These meetings have also allowed me see how several partners can come together to problem solve some of the most difficult challenges faced in implementing a complicated multi-sectoral program like that of AGI-K in rural and urban slum communities. For example, what do you do when much of the rural households enrolled in your study are illegal immigrants or refugees and therefore do not have proper ID to open a bank account in order to receive their promised household cash transfer? How do you work with community gatekeepers and religious leaders to revise your intended sexual and reproductive health curriculum so that it’s culturally appropriate for the intended audience? What do you do when your study protocol has set a standard of 80% school attendance in order to release a household cash transfer except the biometric fingerprint device used to capture student attendance is greatly faulty and considered to be a nuisance to those teachers using it? These are just some of the issues that were discussed and worked through during one of these partner meetings, and it was amazing to see how everyone came together, all offering their own experience and area of expertise, to brainstorm executable solutions. It really emphasizes that these sort of research projects are not done in a laboratory or a closed environment. You are working with real people the real world, and as such, unforeseen problems are undoubtedly going to arise. But when you have a diverse group of partners, you increase the likelihood of coming up with valuable solutions and overcoming these challenges.
Aside from involving me in these partner meetings, along with entrusting me to lead the entire qualitative analysis, my preceptors at Population Council have also allowed me to participate in the capacity building of other Council team members as I train those not as familiar with qualitative analysis using software like Atlas.ti and use my experience to provide insight on how best to organize and summarize qualitative results and conclusions. It has been a real pleasure and, quite frankly, a pleasant surprise to not simply be treated like a student with limited skills and nothing to offer. I am treated like a public health professional who has real talents to bring to the table. That is a huge honor and something that has really added tremendous value to my experience here, as it has only motivated me more to do my very best to provide quality deliverables.