Learning By Doing

Replace “being an adult,” with “leading a transcontinental practicum experience project” and this interweb gem has been my life.

Okay, not just Googling, but digging through journals and asking tons of questions. I’ve taken courses about public health in ‘developing countries’ but nothing on maternal health exclusively. So I’ve done a lot of learning by research and doing.

The elements of the project (so far) are the maternal/neonatal mortality audit form, a surveillance protocol, a database with data entry protocol, a volunteer training session and a volunteer manual.

My process for each piece is pretty much finding versions that have already been made (if/when that exists), comparing it to white papers and other peoples’ lessons learned for similar projects, aligning it with best practice guidelines by institutions like WHO or UNICEF, and researching Malawi-specific reports and maternal health projects from the area so I can make sure it’s relevant and appropriate.

I’ve gotten these far enough along to get the project off the ground so we can been able to take in cases (another neonatal death was reported last week). From here I’ll be refining them with experts on site at CLI. My time there overlaps with doctors from Baylor College of Medicine, including an OB-GYN who is living there currently. I’m also looking forward to working along side my practicum preceptor Gladson and other CLI research staff who can help me understand what needs to be done to make sure the tools fit in with the Malawian culture. Finding the right timing so we can respect the traditional mourning period, while getting our data close enough to the event for accurate reporting, is one item on that list.

Taking initiative to learn by doing + research has been difficult at times, but it’s been a huge growing opportunity for me and has been a great exercise for my brain. Now I’m looking forward to perfecting this system and making it run like a well-oiled surveillance machine!

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