Karen Payne, MPH '11

Cali, Colombia

 

My internship provided me the opportunity to both explore scientific data while immersing myself in Colombia’s rich culture. I worked alongside Colombians in a laboratory and clinical setting, which broadened my appreciation of scientific research in South America and acquainted me with the strengths and challenges of conducting research in this region. Through this project I was privy to the interplay between research and public health; as well as how public health practices are implemented in a foreign country. The goal of my internship was to develop a rapid and sensitive serological test for the detection of cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) in Colombia. Specifically, my goal was to evaluate the use of Leishmania HSP60 and HSP83 for an accurate diagnosis of CL. In addition, we aimed to identify other potential biological marker(s) recognized by antibodies in sera that could be used in the development of an ELISA-based assay for CL detection. The clinical application of such a test could detect the condition in asymptomatic individuals, thus improving diagnosis and, consequently, treatment and recovery. This experience allowed me to apply my knowledge of public and global health in a way that could be used both to improve clinical tools, but also benefit the people affected by this disease. I received funding for this project from the Downs Fellowship and the Council on Latin American & Iberian Studies.