Luis E. Maldonado - Kintampo, Ghana

Luis stands on the playground of a Cheranda school

Career goal: Professor of epidemiology focusing on maternal and child public health nutrition

Internship outline: Luis conducted a qualitative pilot study to assess maternal attitudes, behaviors and beliefs around hookworm infection, malnutrition and protein intake, access and sources, and to evaluate their impact on the dietary patterns of rural Ghanaian children and albendazole treatment efficacy. He collaborated with the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research at the University of Ghana. In collaboration with Yale University, Noguchi is currently conducting a longitudinal study in the North Kintampo Municipality of the Brong-Ahafo Region of Ghana. Luis recruited and interviewed thirty-two mothers and conducted three focus groups in the Kintampo communities.

Value of experience: I had the unique opportunity to conduct an independent study in another country, manage a team of research assistants and tackle the difficulties inherent in conducting research in an unfamiliar setting. Working with Ghanaians and engaging in cultural exchange was also extremely valuable not only to understand some of the sociocultural and behavioral determinants of health, but also to learn about the culture in general and the local foods, their composition and taste. You cannot be interested in nutrition without trying the local foods. Now, my favorite foods in the world are Fufu with tilapia light soup and Banku with tilapia and pepper.

Best moment/experience: One of the most valuable experiences in community-based research is being able to hear participants’ stories and directly observe and learn about the circumstances surrounding their communities. Witnessing the living conditions of the Kintampo communities reminded me of those of rural Guatemala where my grandmother and mother lived, and I realized then that my passion for maternal and child public health nutrition research stems from the dietary challenges my mother and grandmother had to deal with and the preventable health issues they later faced. This internship not only prepared me to undertake an independent research project in a global setting, but also taught me what I am most passionate about addressing through research and policy. This opportunity changed my outlook on life and perspective on global health.                                                                            

Funding source: Wilbur G. Downs International Health Student Travel Fellowship

Luis E. Maldonado