The Beginnings…

I am approaching the first one-hundred hour mark in my practicum work at the USC Institute for Global Health (IGH), which I started mid-January of this year (2009). Over the past couple months, I have seen cultivated professional relationships, enhanced my working skills in a professional setting, broadened my knowledge base of global health problems and the surmounting urgency of addressing them, and have gotten the ability to apply what I have learned in the classroom in real-world situations. In short, I absolutely love the work that I am currently doing with IGH and am excited for the next several months.
The practicum offered by IGH is a 400-hour commitment, in which 150 hours are dedicated to “in-office” work and 250 hours are dedicated to conducting a research study on the topic of our choice. To date, I have completed about 65 hours of in-office work and about 35 hours have been spent on planning my research study.
Specifically, the in-office work includes anything that the Director, Dr. Jonathen Samet; the Associate Director, Dr. Heather Wipfli; and Project Manager, Ivette Flores needs. Since Dr. Samet and Dr. Wipfli are new to the USC community (they were recruited from Johns Hopkins in August 2008) and IGH is in the process of finding the right niche, the first several weeks of my practicum were spent creating databases on relevant schools within USC, departments, and faculty to Global Health. These databases were a crucial part of organizing and finding an effective way to have all relevant individuals meets and find the role of The Institute for Global Health in the USC community, both on a local and global scale. Furthermore, getting a concrete idea of what everyone in the USC community is doing in global health will give IGH a direction, mission, and the means of implementing an interactive, user-friendly website (set to be up and running by summer 2009).
I have also conducted literature searches and reviews on the topics of global obesity, cervical cancer policy issues, and the effects of international shipping regulations on environmental health. Conducting various literature searches for IGH has contributed to my skills of criticizing and choosing credible articles, taking advantage and effectively using surrounding resources, and broadening my knowledge base on a variety of global health issues. Findings from these literature searches were used in various grants and papers that Dr. Wipfli and Dr. Samet are working on. In addition, I also aided in IGH in Global Health Awareness Week events. IGH’s two events: “The Global Double Burden of Obesity and Malnutrition” and “The Interdependence of Global Health and the Environment” were a success and provided a solid introduction of the institute to the USC community. Other duties include assisting Dr. Wipfli and Ivette in future projects. Currently, I am assisting Dr. Wipfli create a database of various soft-drinks sold around the world for a “Global Soda Study.”
In conjunction with my work in the office, I have been spending a lot of time planning my research study that will take place in India this coming May. Over the course of the past couple months, I have narrowed down on the topic of choice, which is Type II Diabetes in the Asian Indian Population. My research question is: “Is there a difference in body type, obesity, genetic factors, and diet among the rural, urban, and cosmopolitan populations of India with Type II Diabetes?” At the beginning of the semester, I was not sure what topic to do my research on. As I progressed through the semester, my PM 599 (Global Implications of the Obesity Epidemic) enhanced my interest in the subject. Coming from an Asian Indian background and culture, I have had personal experience with Type II Diabetes (both sets of grandparents have the disease in addition to my aunt and uncle), which encouraged me to focus on this population. In February, I traveled to India to conduct the pre-assessment phase of the study, which consisted of making contacts with relevant doctors and planning out my actual research study. Dr. Mustaq Qureshi has really helped me thus far in planning the study. The current plan is to visit three different populations (rural, urban, and cosmopolitan) and research the differences in body structure/lifestyle on their incidence of Type II Diabetes.
Thus far in my practicum experience, I have really enhanced my skills in cultivating professional relationships, not just locally, but also on a global scale. Under the guidance of Dr. Wipfli and Ivette Flores, I am using my classroom knowledge and applying it to the real world. Furthermore, I have seen the striking difference in learning in a classroom setting versus a real-world situation. My practicum at IGH has really taught me how to conduct effective research, how professional relationships are formed, how much effort goes into starting an institution and trying to figure out the role of it in a larger community (IGH is the new institution). Being one of first student practicum interns, I stand in the frontlines of the making of this institution. Seeing the efforts of Dr. Samet, Dr. Wipfli, Ivette Flores, and others working toward a common goal is truly a once in a lifetime learning experience. I believe that my involvement with IGH has opened up interest among the undergraduate and graduate students to pursue practicums and experiences of this magnitude. So far, it is one of greatest experiences of my professional career. ☺

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