Margaret Lippitt - Liberia

Social and Behavioral Science Division and Global Health Concentration at YSPH 
Global Health Initiative

Career goal: Managing and evaluating health programs that serve disadvantaged communities in the United States and abroad.

Internship outline: I did qualitative research on drug and alcohol use among youth in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. Gaps in knowledge have made it difficult to develop and adapt standard substance use assessment and intervention approaches in a Liberian context, so my goal was to fill these gaps with information collected through in-depth interviews with drug users and key informants.  During my first month in Liberia, I experienced some delays in my project, so I took the opportunity to work with Tiyatien Health in Zwedru.  My project there was an evaluation for a skills training program operated by Tiyatien’s women’s empowerment group. 

Value of experience:  This project allowed me to develop skills in qualitative research methods and expand my awareness of how public health research can be used to influence and improve policy and programs. At the same time, carrying out an independent research project increased my understanding of the challenges and limitations of public health research. I also had the privilege of exploring a different culture and gaining an understanding of some of the ways in which Liberia’s civil war (1989-2003) continues to affect the nation. I truly hope that the product of this work will also be of value for Liberians and others working in that context.  

Best moment: Conducting interviews with drug users were certainly the most memorable part of my summer. Many of the participants had incredible stories and I feel so honored that they were willing to share their difficulties and histories with me.