Senior, Biomedical Education (Sophie Davis)
Over the summer I went to Guyana to conduct research regarding the determinants of condom use among young adults. I designed the project with the idea that whatever I study should somehow add to current HIV and STD prevention efforts. Guyana is divided into 10 regions and over 8 weeks I was able to survey patients in waiting rooms at major hospitals in each region. My mentor on the ground, Dr. Maraj helped facilitate approval for my study in Guyana and logistics on how to get around the country.
I was born in Guyana but, moved here when I was five years old. Growing up, my dad would tell me stories about a place I could faintly remember. He would tell me about adventures he would have as a youth and I imagined it to be a tropical paradise. Well, when I went back for the first time two years ago, it took some time to recall that vision. The country had a funny odor and I had to wash my own clothes by hand, not to mention that the entire country was devoid of air-conditioning. What was most striking however was the poverty and lack of infrastructure such as roads, bridges, telephone service, and sewage system that was apparent. I was also surprised by the HIV public service commercials although, I didn’t realize the extent that HIV was an epidemic until I did research about its effects in Guyana. I had always entertained the idea of going back to Guyana and helping, but this thought was solidified when I saw the extreme need myself.Growing up my dad would often recount his experiences as an officer in the Guyanese army and his work in the “interior” (Amazon) helping the locals by bringing medical supplies and utilities there. He raised his children to consider themselves Guyanese and to have love for their birthplace. I know that part of my adventurous personality and desire to help people is due to the way I was raised.
I learned how to cook Guyanese food. I learned about the food, music, smells, and sounds that I have come to associate with my country. I learned about tropical medicine and how remote Amerindian villages receive medical care.What I learned the most I think is the importance of the individuals’ environment – in the broadest sense of the word encompassing country, city or town or neighborhood or village, housing conditions, food and food quality, water availability and quality, clothing, birth order, family life and responsibilities, daily activities etc - are all critical factors to the way we see the world, how we live our life, and our specific health care needs . I suppose these environmental factors are what really make people so “different” from one another. However, although we are so “different” we are infinitely more similar. From the biological makeup of our bodies to our human needs for survival. We all feel hungry, coldness and/or hotness, tiredness, sickness, sadness, happiness, in all degrees and in one form or another in our life. Basically, we are all people doing the best that we can to live in our given environment with our given experiences as our guide.
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