Haylee Andrews (EPI '17), who currently is also pursuing a Global Health Certificate at Pitt Public Health, traveled to Kigali, Rwanda, to work with the Life for a Child (LFAC) program as an intern under Distinguished Professor of Epidemiology Trevor Orchard. LFAC partners with the Rwanda Diabetes Association (RDA) to provide insulin and syringes, diabetes education, HbA1c testing, and blood glucose monitoring to people aged 26 and under who have type 1 diabetes. Andrews spent the first part of her internship comparing participant files with information that was in the database to get a complete picture of who was still in the program, who had aged out, and who was lost to follow up. The second part involved traveling to hospitals around the country with two RDA nurses to meet with program participants for their quarterly check-ups. The nurses checked height, weight, and blood pressure and took random blood glucose and HbA1c levels, while Andrews maintained the patient database to ensure all information remained current and was collected and entered accurately.
Professionally, she says one of the biggest things she learned is how important clear communication is in a health care setting—“both in an instructional sense, being able to follow directions that the medical professionals provided in order for me to do my job, and also being able to communicate with all of the people I encountered who didn’t speak English and came from varied backgrounds.” Despite the language barrier, she says, “effective communication was still able to occur. Everyone was very willing to receive my efforts to be helpful and to provide a beneficial service.”
Andrews also relished the opportunity to work with “real-life data” in Rwanda, as opposed to the relatively organized and clean data sets she tests and analyzes in class. “Working with real data as it is collected is a lot different,” she says. “There is so much more involved to ensure that the information is organized and accurately utilized. It was a great opportunity to apply the skills that I learned in class to a real-world situation.”
A personal takeaway for Andrews was how much she grew as a result of being on her own, fully immersed in a foreign culture and environment—an experience she could not have had in a classroom. Although she was a bit apprehensive at first because she had never worked internationally before, she had such a wonderful experience in Rwanda that she has decided to eventually work abroad in a global health-related career. “I would say that my internship in Rwanda was definitely a pivotal event in my life,” she says.
Finally, she would encourage anyone considering pursuing global health at Pitt Public Health to follow her lead and dive in. “Get involved, whether it’s in the classroom, a student organization, or an internship experience. Take advantage of all the great resources Pitt has to offer—there are so many amazing opportunities that are available by being a part of this community.”