Week 1 : June 2nd - June 8th, 2014

After a semester of preparation and a 4-day workshop, the MHIRT students left for their international research adventure on 1 June. In the morning, M. Fischer, K. Go and K. Guiang left with Professor Nerurkar for Bangkok, Thailand. In the evening, M. Nelson, D. Barbo, S. Rasay and C. Kim left for Cameroon. By Monday afternoon (HST) the group had reached Viva Garden and were settling in. By Tuesday morning, the group arrived in Cameroon after stop-overs in Newark and Brussels. Great news. Everyone arrives with their luggage and research supplies!

The first week found the students in Thailand already beginning their research projects. Michellei was the "reporter" for week 1. She reported that she and Krisell had begun to isolate DNA and RNA by Wednesday. Kendrick was becoming familiar with the SEARCH database and had arranged to shadow a physician caring for HIV patients. In Cameroon, the students were fortunate to spend their first 2 days attending the African Epidemiology Conference where they met scientist and students. Chris reported that he it was the first conference he had attended and he was "impressed by the passion and the sheer expertise in the room." Everyone learned a lot about health problems in Cameroon and other African countries. On Friday, she students visited Central Hospital, local clinics where Dr. Sam and Mateo will be working, toured the Biotechnology Center, received an orientation lecture about science and life in Cameroon, and met with their mentors to talk about research that will begin next week. So, it seems like everyone is off and running.


Weekend and non-science experiencesIt seems everyone is adjusting the life in Thailand and Cameroon. As expected, the experiences the students are having are similar but different. On the weekend, the students shopped at a local Thai market at Mo Chit, figured out how to use the washer on their balconies, and got organized for the week ahead. In Cameroon, the students began to adjust to the fact that electricity and water don’t always work. Learning to bathe using a bucket of water, wash clothes in a bucket, and how to flush a toilet using a bucket of water are all new experiences that will come in handy in Hawaii the next time we have a tsunami. On the weekend, MHIRT-Cam students had a tour of the city and dinner with their mentors. 

In each news letter I will include selected comments to share. This week I’ll highlight the Cameroonian group since I haven’t seen the weekly reports from MHIRT-Thai students yet.

Chris: "After the long journey to Cameroon, the ride to Omnisport (airport to house) was the most illumination. That 30 minute ride told me more about Cameroon than the countless travel guides that I had been scouring online." "Other than the sudden burning desire to learn French, I am doing great!"

Domenick: "Everyone is so wonderful in taking care of us. The first few days were a little rough getting used to the changes. Electricity is spotty and we are amidst a water crisis. Out of the four days so far, 50% were without running water. Internet is our most prized commodity." A highlight for Domenick occurred at the of the Epidemiology Conference upon hearing Dr. Leke’s replay to a question asked by a participant about "reassurance that government was sensitizing and reinforcing environmental cleanliness and netting in the home." Her reply was "I hope you have a net around your door and are going to the community sensitizing them to keep their yards clean and free of standing water. Why are we always asking and waiting for the government to facilitate these changes. Alleviation of the burden of malaria in Cameroon is up to us, the people in this room and those in the community with the knowledge to do so." (Right on Prof. Leke!!)

Shayne: Also reported on the conference that "it was a great opportunity to gain some insight on the academic culture in Africa and the enthusiasm of everyone present (students, researchers, and persenters alike) was very inspiring". She also "admired her (Prof. Leke) ability to stand her ground as a female scientist. She is truly an impressive individual." Shayne also reports she is "very excited and eager to start working in the lab, especially at the hospital."


Matt: "Just wanted to let you know we are having a blast our first week in Yaounde!" "On meals, Cameroonian food is surprisingly scrumptious and quite tasty – lots of spices and palm oil result in a number of bold flavor profiles. We have also had the pleasure of sampling plantains, cassavas, and French pastries."