Reflecting on my practicum with Ipas Latin America and the Caribbean

This summer I had the opportunity to spend my practicum working with Ipas Latin America and Carribean, supporting abortion access in Northern Mexico. Though this was a completely virtual practicum it was still undoubtedly an international and cross-cultural experience. The team I worked on included members from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Mexico and Peru. As I mentioned in my first update, the biggest challenge of my practicum was working in Spanish. This was my first professional experience that was completely in a second language. It was an immense challenge to communicate complicated analysis ideas and navigate team dynamics. This experience gave me a newfound depth of respect for those that primarily work in their second language and a greater understanding of the immense advantage that native English speakers have in a world where English is considered the primary language of business.

I spent the second half of my practicum analyzing the existing evidence and writing a report on the ways in which Ipas can support abortion access along the Mexico-US border. It was interesting learning about how the different political and social environment on the Mexican side of the border influenced the needs of those communities. My pre-existing expectation was that my report would focus on meeting the needs of American’s crossing the border to seek abortion access. However, I ended up pivoting the focus of my report to addressing the needs of migrants from Central and South America that have been waylaid at the border due to US policies such as “Remain in Mexico.” This experience was eye opening as to the way different policies compound to negatively impact vulnerable populations.

Overall my practicum was a very valuable experience. Though I didn’t love working remotely, it did provide me an opportunity to work on an international team that I might not otherwise have had. I decided to take an ArcGIS course this semester in the hopes of being able to build skills in resource mapping that may be of use to organizations like Ipas. Through what I learned in my practicum I hope to build skills and experiences through my second year of my MPH that will make me more valuable to organizations like Ipas working in the reproductive justice and abortion access space.

A scenic shot of the Jordan lake featuring a person paddleboarding in the distance.
Paddleboarding at Jordan lake.
A bowl of embroidery materials
In my free time I got into sashiko-inspired embroidery.


Reflections on the 12th Annual Advanced Course in Diagnostics (ACDx) in Annecy, France

I am writing this in the airport in Geneva waiting for my flight home from ACDx. This summer for my practicum, I had the pleasure of working with the Mérieux Foundation as they prepared for the 12th annual Advanced Course on Diagnostics (ACDx). This course brings together professionals from all over the world and different sectors, including research, clinical laboratories, policy and regulation, and biotechnology to discuss diagnostics. We had six days packed full of lectures, panel discussions, and workshops all hosted at Les Pensières in Annecy, France.

One of the many qualities that makes ACDx a special event is that it is relatively small. This year there were 25 participants, and a set of core faculty with several additional speakers who rotated throughout the week. We all stayed at Les Pensières Center for Global Health in Annecy, on the beautiful lake. This setting allowed us to build true connections, not only spending all day together learning but continuing those conversations over shared meals, walking along the lake, and exploring the town.

A scenic shot of the river and old town Annecy

The core focus throughout the week is improving equitable access to diagnostics, especially in LMICs. It was a great demonstration of global public health in action. Colleagues from around the world were discussing the barriers to access to high quality and affordable diagnostics in their respective communities, and how to collaborate to build sustainable solutions to complex problems. Throughout the week we heard from experts at WHO, Africa CDC, ASLM, NIH, FIND, UNITAID, Fondation Merieux and more covering various topics in diagnostics from emerging technologies to laboratory system strengthening, regulatory harmonization, antimicrobial resistance, social innovation for public health, public health communications about diagnostics and One Health, and the implications of climate change on diagnostics. Honestly, my head is still spinning a bit from all the great talks we heard and conversations we had. I look forward to keeping in touch with the colleagues I met this week, and I hope to return to Annecy someday soon.


The ACDx group participants pose for a picture outside in front of tall green trees

To learn more about ACDx, visit:

My Experience Contributing to Severe Malaria Research in Uganda

This is my last day in Bugoye, Uganda and as I look at the sunset over the health center framed by the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains, I reflect on the past six weeks in this beautiful country. I have had the privilege to work on a study of pediatric severe malaria at a nearby Level IV health center for my practicum while also exploring some of the national parks and wildlife that “the pearl of Africa” has to offer. It has been a challenging and rewarding experience.

Mountains in the distance with an orange sunset in the background
A beautiful view in Bugoye, Uganda

We hit the ground running as soon as I arrived in Bugoye with work on the Severe Malaria study. Due to delays in IRB approval, data collection had not yet begun when I arrived, so I worked with the Severe Malaria team to ensure data collection forms were working properly, and to troubleshoot issues that arose when we began data collection. I’m grateful to be working with a highly motivated and friendly team, who are continuing data collection as I prepare to leave Uganda. While there were certainly challenges with starting up a new study in a new research site, the most challenging aspect of this work for me personally has been seeing the children with severe malaria when they arrived. Many children suffer from some of the worst symptoms of severe malaria upon arrival. Convulsions, changes or loss of consciousness, and severe anemia were commonplace. Some are in a truly critical state, and each instance I witnessed was heartbreaking. However, I’ve also been amazed by the miracle of modern medicine. Within 3-4 days of receiving treatment, it was not uncommon to see a young child who arrived in grave condition to be alert and playing. Seeing this incredible transformation from the dire state in which many arrive was incredibly heartening. Additionally, seeing the devastating effects of this disease up close has inspired me to continue working on this study through data analysis in the upcoming semester. This has been a transformative experience, and I could not be more grateful for all I’ve learned during my six weeks here.

I’ve also had the opportunity to explore the scenic areas that surround Bugoye. Among these incredible experiences, one day stands out as an absolute highlight – a challenging 18-kilometer (11 miles) hike that took us to a glacial lake at an elevation of 9,000 feet within the Rwenzori Mountains. Although this was a strenuous hike, we were rewarded with views of towering mountains, waterfalls, and the lake at the summit. Our guide, Michael, proved to be an invaluable companion on this hike. His extensive knowledge of the local flora and fauna enriched our understanding of the ecosystem that surrounded us. With an uncanny ability to spot even camouflaged animals, he helped us see two distinct monkey species swinging gracefully through the treetops. We even found a three-horned chameleon, a true testament to the region’s biodiversity. I also embarked on another excursion to Queen Elizabeth National Park. Here, I had the privilege of seeing chimps high in the treetops during a chimp trek. Moreover, I enjoyed a tranquil boat safari along the park’s main river, where we saw elephants, hippos, a baby crocodile, and dozens of different species of birds!

A green lizard clings to a tree
I had the opportunity to explore the scenic areas that surround Bugoye

My time in Uganda has not only been defined by the invaluable work on the severe malaria study but also by these unforgettable encounters with the country’s natural wonders. These experiences have provided me with a profound appreciation for the remarkable diversity and beauty of Uganda’s landscapes and wildlife, making my journey a truly transformative one. I’m looking forward to using this experience to influence my Public Health career in the future.