Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The "black box" of pulmonary epidemiology in Uganda part 2

March 1, 2015

Crystal North, MD
Clinical Research Fellow
Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine
Massachusetts General Hospital

I am delighted to report that I was selected to be a 2015 – 2016 Fogarty Global Health Fellow, and will be moving here (to Mbarara, Uganda) in August 2015!  This fellowship will directly support my work studying lung disease among people living with chronic HIV infection, and will hopefully be that key launching point to a successful research career that every junior investigator needs.

This last month has been a whirlwind of activity, meetings, writing and planning, with just enough relaxation in gorgeous Uganda to make it all manageable.  We’ve successfully submitted all necessary IRB documents, all study supplies haven been delivered and inventoried, training sessions for the research team on pulmonary function testing have begun, and work is well underway for the second project I’m involved with here in Uganda – the HopeNet Health Fair (which I’ll describe in a bit). The research team is excited to begin pulmonary function testing on study participants, and is so enthusiastically interested in why we’re choosing to add pulmonary function testing to the study.  I have deeply enjoyed getting to know them over the last 6 weeks, and I’m even proud to say I’ve picked up a few of the Runyankole greetings.  They keep trying to teach me more, but my knack for languages was never very good to begin with – I can barely remember any of the high school Spanish I once knew.  I’ve promised them that I’ll keep working on learning the language – mpora mpora (slowly).

The second project on which I have been working is planning of the HopeNet health fair.  To better understand the burden of chronic diseases in southwestern Uganda, we are planning for a community screening event to be held in June 2015.  Our health fair will screen for common yet under-diagnosed conditions – high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, heart disease and diabetes.  Given its emerging status as a chronic disease, we will be conducting HIV screening as well.  We hope to screen around 2,000 people over 5 days – which understandably is going to take quite a bit of planning.  I have quickly become well-versed in the language of contracts, payments and advertisement, and have developed a deep appreciation for international Skype meetings.  I know nothing about the stock market, but if it’s possible to own stock in Skype, I wish I did.  The skill set I’m developing as a part of this planning committee is priceless, and despite the multitude of emails and my necessary attachment to the internet at all times, I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.  The opportunity to evaluate the pulmonary function of up to 2,000 Ugandans will provide such insight into pulmonary health in sub-Saharan Africa, and I’m quite thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this project. We are scheduled to have our health fair in June of 2015, barring any necessary readjustments, so cross your fingers for a successful and impactful HopeNet health fair!

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