The relationship the YSPH team has built with the Ministry of Health in Samoa is something truly admirable. The team members of these research projects put so much care into what they do, and it was an absolute privilege to be a part of the Energetics Study this past summer. Our days in the villages consisted of taking anthropometric measurements, doing blood pressure and HbA1c tests on participants, and explaining the results to each participant alongside our Samoan enumerators. Many hours were spent doing field work in several villages for our study. At times, these workdays were extensive and exhausting. Yet, seeing how much the village leaders and participants appreciated our work made the experience incredibly fulfilling.
What I wish was different
There was not a lot of information given regarding what we were exactly going to be doing prior to the commencement our study. However, it is hard to fully grasp what the experience is going to be until you are actually in Samoa. The first few days of learning to take measurements, coordinating how to move participants along in the study, and assigning responsibilities during days of field work were challenging. Nonetheless, with time and practice, our coordination and efficiency improved greatly!
It's definitely not an overstatement to go into this research with an open mind. Having grown up with a Latinx and South Asian heritage, Samoa was an entirely new experience for me. To me, the realms of health and illness deal with so many personal, intimate experiences. Often times, it was hard to discern what it meant for me, a foreigner, to be diving so deeply in the lives and health of people living in Samoa. To this day, I still don't have a clear answer, but I do know that checking in on myself and being able to open up with my teammates, advisors, family, and friends about my experiences helped me find my place on the island.