DegreeM.S. in Global Health ’22
My experience in Bass Connections has been absolutely monumental in not only my academic development, but also my personal growth as well. I am currently a part of the Information, Perceptions and Health Behavior team looking to understand the reasons and influences for why people choose certain health behaviors. In particular, our project hones in on vaccination decisions in relation to COVID-19, and how various factors affect individual choices to become immunized.
I personally joined this project, because as someone who hopes to work as a future clinician, it is critical I understand potential motivations for patient choices. One of the goals for our project is to provide a base of knowledge that policymakers can use to aid in devising, operating and monitoring immunization programs and communication campaigns for pressing public health threats. Many would agree that this is a worthwhile endeavor for any aspiring healthcare professional, especially someone hoping to work in global health.
On this team, I serve as the graduate project manager as well as a member of the Bass Connections Student Advisory Council. My main responsibilities consist of mentoring and guiding the undergraduate students on the team through the process of research, while also serving as a liaison between them and our mentors.
In addition, within the Student Advisory Council, I have a unique opportunity to contribute ideas and suggestions for the program to improve the Bass Connections experience for all. These positions have allowed me to benefit professionally in terms of leadership, communication and teamwork.
Regarding that last piece, teamwork is vital to the success of any group. With respect to my teammates, I have greatly enjoyed all of our interactions both in an academic setting and within casual settings. One of the emphases for our team is a focus on cohesive effort and overall understanding, rather than a dividing and conquering approach. Everything from survey development to data collection, to statistical analysis to manuscript writing, is done as a team. By learning together, we are able to understand all of the various pieces that make up research projects.
Relationships are always an integral part of any experience I have. I am personally grateful for our project team leaders, Dr. Lin and Dr. Tu. From enjoying Durham LocoPops to lunch at The Commons and snacks from Li Ming’s Global Mart, they have not fallen short on properly feeding their students. But most importantly, they have been critical in providing constructive feedback and proper guidance.
As a graduate student, it has been an adjustment to understand that the level of everything I complete is at a higher standard of expectations than from my time as an undergraduate. This adjustment was something I struggled with this last semester as I tried to juggle my coursework, extracurriculars, research, thesis writing and involvement in the project.
Dr. Lin and Dr. Tu were both extremely helpful in outlining their expectations for me and the belief in reaching that potential. If I was not producing up to the degree expected, they were both remarkably respectful in apprising me. This has set me up well in terms of taking responsibility, and in inspiring motivation to produce quality work. One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I am fairly good at taking criticism. I never view it as a means to be demoralized or something to take personally. Instead, I perceive it as a learning opportunity to better myself and make those around me proud.
Still though, not everything can be smooth sailing as we have run into hurdles especially with coding and properly analyzing data. I have often heard the quote, “Sometimes the first part of solving a problem is admitting there is one.” As we faced challenges with the data, we sought out resources that Duke offers, and we utilized them to improve our understanding and forge a path forward. The success from this approach has taught me to not be afraid to ask for help, and to once again take every challenge as an educational lesson.
Internalizing this experience, synthesizing the lessons, and organizing my thoughts have helped me to tremendously increase the benefits this experience has given me. My time on the team has had a huge impact on my future plans to work in health and medicine. My interest in health communication has also grown, and this next year I hope to integrate my skills in videography/photography along with my background in science to share valuable messages and communicate science information effectively. I regard these abilities as invaluable elements in my personal path to becoming a physician.
We hope to continue our work by collaboratively writing manuscripts and publishing our findings. Being involved in the research process from the very beginning to the very end has provided me with indispensable knowledge. Overall, the most rewarding part of the journey has been the feeling of having traveled the entire path of the research process. I hope that over time, I can continue to become a better researcher and truly make a difference in uncovering new knowledge.