DegreeClass of 2024
Just as COVID-19 has impacted and changed so many lives, the impact of the virus has been immeasurable for me and what I believed my life course was going to be prior to coming to Duke. In fact, I did not even learn that I was admitted to Duke until the first stay at home orders had been placed in North Carolina.
I had no idea what to expect in the coming months with rising cases and mounting issues of inequity becoming more and more visible in communities by the day. Similarly, I had no idea what to expect for my first year of college, with COVID impacting what I believed college classes, academic research and a general college atmosphere was supposed to look like. COVID notwithstanding, my Bass Connections project team has been the most personally impactful and academically stimulating experience of my time, and I will continue to remember the work and collaboration our team has done for the rest of my life.
Prior to coming to Duke, I had an interest in cultural and migration studies, likely influenced by my background as the child of first-generation Filipino immigrants and being raised in the American South. I had also been heavily involved with my local hospital’s “Medical Food Pantry,” which worked to provide education, resources and health literacy information for patients deemed food insecure. My experience talking to patients from my community made me passionate about food insecurity and structural aspects of healthcare for what has become known as “historically marginalized populations.”
Our Bass Connections team has been investigating the impact of COVID-19 on food insecurity as it relates specifically to the Latinx population here in Durham. We have been working closely with a Duke-affiliated organization, Root Causes, to gain a better understanding of the challenges faced by recipients of services by the organization, particularly food deliveries through the Fresh Produce Program. Prior to the pandemic, the program operated from a clinic that patients could visit, but it turned to a remote delivery model. Our Bass Connections team has been looking into the aspects of food insecurity on both the community and household level as well as the stakeholder and food security organization level.
Even though our work has been done virtually for the most part, the work and research that goes into our investigation of Latinx food insecurity feels impactful and salient, especially in the context of COVID-19 and how it has impacted much of the world around us.
A large part of my subteam’s early work involved conducting virtual stakeholder interviews with emergency food and community organizations across the country and world in urban areas that served highly populated Latinx areas. We learned firsthand how COVID-19 has impacted their operations and outlook on the mission of resiliency and food security for Latinx individuals. Being part of these interviews, literature review and qualitative coding of the interviews has been an invaluable experience.
Getting to hear from people across the country working to solve the same issue and working with a collaborative and diverse team of undergraduates, graduate and medical students, and faculty has impacted my academic and personal thinking of the social and political determinants of health in ways that I had never thought of before. Now, my subteam is using this preliminary coding and analysis to create a Triangle area-specific survey to centralize and recenter our focus to the issues facing the local Latinx community and organizations.
My experience fueled an interest in the political integration of migrant and immigrant rights, particular as it relates to health and healthcare. I anticipate pursuing this further as I continue my academic endeavors here at Duke.
Working with the Bass Connections team has been an experience unlike one I ever expected. Despite the virtual format, I felt a connection to the members of my team, even if the age gap between us could span years. I was able to use some of them as resources for what I wanted to pursue academically during my own time, and I felt that I could make a contribution to the team’s trajectory and analysis of the issues, even as a first year student.
I am grateful for the project leaders and mentors that I have had for taking a chance on me and being an integral part of my transition to Duke. I anticipate remaining part of the Root Causes organization and Fresh Produce Program, as well as keeping in touch with members of my team.