Day 3 – NIH training

Wednesday started off with a “How to Interact with Your Mentor” talk in preparation for working with our US mentor (aka “Principal Investigator” in the research realm) and any foreign site local mentors. Since I’ve met my mentor, Dr. Whalen, in Cleveland in April, I already have begun to get a sense how to “interact” for the upcoming year. The remainder of the morning consisted of didactics in learning how to use the world’s largest scientific resource for health – PubMed (http://www.pubmed.gov). Most of the US scholars and fellows are well versed in its use, but we now have a few more tricks up our sleeves for using it. The session was held at National Library of Medicine, which is a beautiful building and the largest health library in the world. We’ll have another tour of it next week for a Global Health exhibit tour. During the afternoon we had “country break out groups”. My group consisted of the international and US scholars/fellows from Kenya, Mali, and Uganda. The group talk was exceptionally energetic and idea-generating. The topics spanned US policies such as PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) and the African Health Capacity Investment Act to African politics and poverty impacting research infrastructure building in their countries. It became clear to me that there exists both a need for foreign aid and a strong desire to become autonomous from it. The conversations among the African scholars/fellows about aid dependency versus necessity juxtaposed with political corruption in certain sub-Saharan African countries were a unique learning opportunity for me. Additionally, the interconnectedness of national leadership and poverty to every other part of civil society, although intuitive, became clearly evident in terms of barriers and pathways for future growth. The last hour of the afternoon I met with another group of fellows/scholars for a global health presentation I’ll be part of next Friday. We are writing a mock NIH grant application for a research project that we propose. I think by the end of the experience it will be a small, but useful, exercise in international collaboration and project designing. Dinner Wednesday will be memorable. Sixteen US scholars plus 2 international scholars headed to Kramer’s Books & Afterwards for dinner to celebrate the birthday of one of our friends in the group. We had some great meals and desserts and stretched the meal out for three-and-a-half hours. Lots of laughs and stories. I’m not getting much sleep, but in staying awake I’m meeting a lot of people and become better friends with others. Truly the internationality of the group and diversity of the US scholar group has made it all the more interesting and unique from my every day life.

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