27 Feb 2013, Posted by Tony Shan in News, 0 Comments
While many pre-med students spend their research hours with pipettes and buffer solutions, some have the opportunity to pursue research internationally in the field.
Special to The Chronicle
Junior biology major Lynn Theprungsirikul is a candidate for the Global Health certificate who researched the barriers to the uptake of cataract surgery faced by eye patients in Tamale, Ghana while working as a Unite For Sight Global Impact Fellow volunteer. Her project seeked to explain why patients who have been approved for free eye surgeries tend not to show up for their appointments.
“At first I thought it might be transportation. Some people have to walk miles to get to the health clinic, but actually, most were willing,” Theprungsirikul said. “The main reason was because they are afraid that once they go to the hospital, they won’t come back the same. It’s fear and false assumptions.”
Besides spreading awareness about the clinic to quell these fears and screening patients for eye diseases using visual acuity tests, Theprungsirikul spent time with patients, gathering data for her research. Despite the language and culture competency training provided by the program, there was a huge communication barrier, Theprungsirikul said. But she added that there were still plenty of personal moments.
“I spoke to a woman who told me she had to walk barefoot for three hours to reach the clinic and stay overnight to get post-op,” she said. “But since she couldn’t leave [her family] back at home, she couldn’t get the surgery.”
Aside from her volunteer work and research, Theprungsirikul noted that simply being in Ghana was a novel experience. Since the diet there did not include many vegetables, each volunteer was asked to bring fiber supplements, which they would eat each day.
Now, nearly two years after her overseas research experience, Theprungsirikul actually does work in a lab with pipettes and buffers, studying tissue signaling. The experience, however, is a bit different, she says. Whereas her tissue signaling research seeks to discover something new, Theprungsirikul’s project in Ghana was more descriptive, trying to identify an issue that already exists.
“The purpose of the research requirement [in Global Health] is to apply what we learn in our classes—like ethics—to fieldwork,” Theprungsirikul said. “I was able to do that through my project.”