Sarah Hamid - American Somoa
Internship location: Faga’alu, American Samoa
Career goal:To work in global public health to improve the health of underserved populations through evidence-based interventions
I traveled to American Samoa on a Downs Fellowship and collaborated with a research team from Brown University on a community health worker diabetes control and management intervention. My primary goal was to determine whether the community health worker model was associated with a reduction in costly hospital encounters. Every day, I took the brightly colored island bus to the LBJ Tropical Medical Center, where I abstracted hospital utilization data from the medical record system.
Value of experience:
My internship gave me the opportunity to address a pressing public health problem and to apply my classroom learning of epidemiologic research methods. Carrying out an independent research project also enhanced my awareness of the challenges and limitations of public health research, especially in a low-resource setting. Furthermore, my internship provided both a practical and a cultural experience, offering insight into the health care system in American Samoa and the ways in which cultural beliefs influence perceptions of health and illness.
I had a rich cultural experience in American Samoa. I ate Samoan food prepared in an umu (earth oven), hiked through the jungle, spotted whales off the coast and participated in National Health Center Week.
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Field director Jesse Damon and community health workers for “Diabetes Care in American Samoa” set up for National Health Center Week at the Tafuna Family Health Center.
My work station in the ER log room at Lyndon B. Johnson Tropical Medical Center.
Samoa The Lyndon B. Johnson Tropical Medical Center where I spent much of my time.
The emergency room at Lyndon B. Johnson Tropical Medical Center.
Principal investigator Dr. Stephen McGarvey and field director Jesse Damon prepare lab samples for shipment to Rhode Island.
A community health worker discusses patient care with a physician at Tafuna Family Health Center.
The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) table at National Health Center Week.
Working to abstract data at my workstation in Lyndon B. Johnson Tropical Medical Center‘s primary care clinic.
A group diabetes education meeting in a traditional Samoan home or fale.
A “morality” poster in my village, Nu’uuli.
Children swimming at Fatu ma Futi.
A view of the island from the heights of Mt. Alava.
Waiting outside the ER with one of the hospital’s itinerant chickens.
The fruit stand next to my bus stop was a convenient place to buy papayas and red bananas.
A typical Samoan dish: umu (roasted breadfruit, fried reef fish and roast chicken); palusami (taro leaves cooked in coconut cream with onions); pisupo (canned corned beef); and breadfruit salad.
Samoans sang and performed at the Friday night market.
A shipwrecked Korean boat sits on the coast. It was scuttled by the crew, according to the story, who then abandoned ship to escape a tyrannical captain.
The island has several striking geological formations.
On a weekend hike to Unu’u, where I spotted humpback whales off the coast.
On a weekend hike up Mt. Alava.