STEP Story: Khalela Hatchett

MPH Student, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
Mbita, June-September 2016

Khalela HatchettThis summer, I assisted with the “Understanding Mobility and Risk in Sustainable East African Research in Community Health (SEARCH) Communities” study in Mbita, which is a collaborative study between UCSF, the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), and the Infectious Disease Research Collaboration (IDRC) in Uganda. Though this was my third visit to Kenya, this was my first involvement in research in Kenya. For ten weeks, I gained experience in qualitative and community-based participatory research.

From day one of my internship, our study team was on the move. We traveled to Ongo to conduct a community discussion with various community leaders and members to better understand the community and the effects of geographic mobility concerning economic livelihoods, health, and relationships. The information gathered from the discussion will be compiled into a profile and will be shared with the community at follow-up discussions.

During the summer, I have been able to participate in a wide range of activities such as a study planning retreat, data management, quality monitoring and entry, creating weekly memos, and coding and analyzing transcripts from community discussions and key informant interviews. I also had the opportunity to visit a SEARCH community health campaign in Nyamrisra and conduct participant observations. It was amazing to see how well everyone worked together to complete tasks within the communities. Their commitment to their work is very evident!

This internship was invaluable and it increased my desire to pursue a career in global health. In addition to exposure to field work and study implementation, I was able to put what I have learned in the classroom at UCLA to work as well as learn new skills such as transcript coding and analysis. I was supported by a wonderful team of people from KEMRI and UCSF, who were willing to answer all of my questions and provide assistance when needed.

My time in Kenya was truly special. I was welcomed with open arms, and worked with a remarkable group of people within FACES, SEARCH, and KEMRI. I am incredibly grateful to have participated in the STEP Elective Program. Also, I enjoyed getting to learn a few words in Kiswahili and Luo, eat traditional foods, and enjoy the beautiful scenery.  I hope to return to Kenya very soon!