Kimberly Lay - Salvador, Brazil

Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases, Global Health Concentration at YSPH 
Downs Fellow

Career goal: Global health work in neglected tropical diseases and water and sanitation programs.

Internship outline: I conducted my own epidemiological study to determine if Vitamin K deficiency increased the risk of severe pulmonary hemorrhage syndrome. This is a severe and often fatal complication of leptospirosis, a neglected tropical disease endemic to Brazil and a large problem in urban slums or favelas due to the rapid urbanization.  As a part of ongoing surveillance work since 1996, the project combined both laboratory work to test for Vitamin K deficiency and epidemiological skills in developing and conducting a nutritional questionnaire as a part of the leptospirosis surveillance team at Hospital Couto Maia.  

Value of experience: I learned about the challenges and rewards of surveillance and conducting research in a global health setting and learning to go along with the current workflow. More importantly, I learned the value of developing and nurturing partnerships for research and public health interventions across disciplines. I also gained new perspective in addressing health problems that afflict neglected and disenfranchised populations in an urban setting by living and learning about the many aspects and barriers in preventing and treating diseases like leptospirosis.

Best moment: At times it was difficult to be optimistic in the ability of research and public health in reducing the impact of leptospirosis, especially when I was constantly seeing the health disparities and inequities in an urban setting and at the hospital.  However, one of the most rewarding experiences was when my colleagues and I lifted the entire spirit of the pediatric ward by creating balloon faces out of gloves for the children. It may not have cured any diseases, but it definitely brightened the rest of their day.