Community Research Fellowship- The Condition of Latina Maternal Health in Pittsburgh

Hello all! My name is Emily Thompson, and I am a rising junior majoring in Urban Studies, with a minor in Spanish, and a certificate in Global Health. I hope to pursue these varied interests in a team-oriented setting that prioritizes improving the quality of life for all people. This vision may manifest in the fields of community and behavioral health, public health policy, or law. This fellowship provides a unique opportunity to explore all of these interest further, and in conversation with one another, giving me a glimpse into endeavors I may pursue in my future professional life. In my personal life, I enjoy being in nature more than anything, whether that be going for a hike on one of the trails near my house in northern New Jersey, playing Ultimate Frisbee, or simply sitting by the ocean with a good book. I am an avid reader, and often find myself living in the worlds of books I read- a personal favorite as of this week is Call Me By Your Name, a coming-of-age novel set in the Italian countryside. I play trombone, and have recently taken up the acoustic guitar, but my efforts with the latter haven’t been met with much success just yet.

My project for this summer, The Condition of Latina Maternal Health in Pittsburgh, will be executed in partnership with Casa San José, a resource center for the Latino community of Pittsburgh. Casa San José actively promotes the health and well-being of Latinos by offering immigrant support services, community advocacy, ESL classes, mental health services, and much more. This summer, I am collaborating primarily with Monique Hererra, immigrant support service navigator, and Verónica Lozada, Deputy Director of Programs and Community Engagement. Faculty members Dr. Steven Albert and Dr. Thistle Inga Elias, both of whom are professors of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences, are kindly lending their assistance to this project, and have been a tremendous help with revising the timeline of the project, and providing direction and encouragement.

The first portion of this project entails a literature scan, which is a comprehensive review of articles relating to the status of Latina maternal health in Pittsburgh. In addition to reviewing available literature, I am also assembling data to produce visualizations that help to outline the main determinants of access to Latina maternal healthcare. The second portion of the project involves conversational interviews with a group of Latina mothers about their experiences with the healthcare system. The interviews will be studied for recurring trends and similar experiences, which will inform the final stage of the project, an analytic discussion of the findings, with regards to their similarity in relation to the anticipated outcomes, and how the findings relate to the current body of knowledge with regards to Latina maternal healthcare.

The creation and beginning stages of this project have taught me how to: craft a feasible timeline, involve organizations in personal projects, and navigate the relational component of community interaction. Admittedly, setting out on this independently-directed research endeavor was, and continues to be, daunting. The stages of the research process often take longer than expected, and may overlap at times, especially when they are of a trans-disciplinary nature. I am still finding it challenging to adjust to these changes while maintaining personal deadlines, especially working remotely. However, by reconnecting with my faculty advisors and utilizing the help of my fellowship mentors in their extensive experience with student-led projects, I am confident that I will be able to focus my efforts.

As for my future plans, I can say that this fellowship has solidified my desire to continue my post-graduate education in Public Health, potentially after one or two gap years. Working in an environment similar to Casa San José fits perfectly with my strengths and interests, and I could easily see myself interning or working at a similar community organization for an amount of time before pursuing an additional degree in Public Health Policy and Administration.

While crafting this blog post, I was able to read through entries made by students completing various fellowships, as well as those participating in the Community Research Fellowship. Each student’s vision for change and progress is made evident by their writing. The continuation of my research is spurred on by the achievements of my peers, as well as the the work of professional scholars in similar fields of exploration.

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