DegreePh.D. in Nursing ’17
Our Bass Connections GANDHI team, as well as the GANDHI-Child and Adolescent Health (GANDHI-CAH) project team, have created the opportunity for incredible research collaboration across disciplines and education levels. As a doctoral candidate looking forward to my defense this spring, I reflect back on the multiple teams I have been a part of during my time at Duke. While the majority of my time is now focused on my dissertation and with my committee, it can get lonely doing dissertation research. Nothing about participating in GANDHI, however, is isolating or done alone.
Last year we realized our group for GANDHI was made up of incredibly talented, albeit busy, students. The team agreed to meet weekly at 7:00 a.m. on Mondays. Scheduling conflicts included medical school rotations, physical therapy clinical hours, undergraduate wet labs, competing work schedules, a broad array of extracurricular activities and personal commitments including conference attendance and travel. Lightly put, this was a busy group of 21 individuals!
Yet, the common denominator was that each person was so motivated and committed to the work that we chose to meet collectively before sunrise and before Duke buses were even operating. We carpooled and called to wake each other as the days got shorter but even with a call-in option, if we were in town we participated in person. The early morning meeting time was also convenient for our international partners in other time zones who would connect with us via WebEx or Skype to discuss their research and how they became involved with GANDHI.
Facilitating collaboration for a research network across continents had its challenges. Beyond navigating time zones, we could not always depend on easy communication. For example, our first call with an Argentinian partner had multiple interruptions from unstable internet connections and multiple callbacks. Despite the much-appreciated technical help from Duke Global Health Institute IT support (thank you Lee Walls!), a 50-minute call consisted of about 15 minutes of productive conversation. Email is more reliable but it also is not as prominent in other societies as our own for establishing relationships. In addition to the introductions our country partners made for us to others, we became skilled in connecting with others however we could—Facebook, LinkedIn and even Twitter.
Flexibility and establishing relationships were key ingredients to this team’s productivity. We had a wide range of research skills and experiences across our diverse group and we had to learn more about each other to appropriately pace progress toward each goal. Our different skill sets naturally lent to opportunities for peer mentoring as we came together to develop research protocols, interview guides and work (mostly in Google Docs!). These interactions highlighted the importance of developing relationships and getting to know one another and our external collaborators before starting each project.
Dr. Janet Bettger assigned us ten networking activities over ten weeks to improve our confidence in reaching out and connecting with others. We practiced our professional three-sentence “elevator” introduction when Dr. Michel Landry joined our class. We had Dr. Karrie Stewart join us to discuss and role play stakeholder interviews both in person and via phone. We had large and small group dinners (usually potluck) hosted at classmates’ houses.
Through these seemingly small interactions we gained trust and respect for each other’s perspectives, and got to know each other on a more personal level. Collectively, this shaped the work we were able to do as a group and the skills we will bring to teams in the future.