It was an unforgettable and rewarding summer for College of Public Health (CPH) student Pallavi Oruganti, who spent her precious summer months in Los Robles, Jinotega, Nicaragua, conducting fieldwork and collecting data for her Master of Public Health (MPH) culminating project.
Oruganti was part of an interdisciplinary research team made up of Ohio State students from public health, anthropology and veterinary medicine. The project she was involved with in Los Robles focused on infant and child gut microbiomes. Oruganti and her research partners observed how interactions with soil, water, animals and other items in the household impact microbiome makeup, and ultimately the risk of diarrheal disease.
“To do this, we worked in the community with several households collecting biological samples of children, animals, soil and water,” Oruganti explained. “Additionally, we observed children and babies and conducted interviews with several moms in the community to ascertain cultural ideas of raising children and animals in Los Robles.”
Her travel was funded through the CPH Global Health Travel Award, and other project work was supported through the Connect and Collaborate Grants Program through The Ohio State University Office of Academic Affairs.
“The love, hospitality, home-cooked meals and patience with our Spanish we experienced in our homes made our research possible and also allowed us to better understand daily life in the community,” Oruganti said. “We are endlessly thankful for every single household that participat4ed in our study, and for their genuine interest and willingness to share their experiences.”
Oruganti is currently earning her MPH with a concentration in veterinary public health. Her interests lie specifically with global health, zoonotic diseases and human-animal interactions.
“Partnering with Comunidad Connect allowed us to gain our footing in Nicaragua and the community, as they were able to arrange our stays with host families,” Oruganti said. “We are also incredibly indebted to the Brigadistas of Los Robles for sacrificing their time to assist us with identifying households, sharing their public health knowledge and becoming our friends along the way. One of the main observations we had about the community is the sheer strength and work ethic of the women in this community, and the Brigadistas are a testament to this.”
Highlights of her trip included the connections and relationships she forged with the people she interacted with through her research.
“My favorite memory of our time in Los Robles is the surprise going-away fiesta my host family and neighbors threw for us,” Oruganti said. “It was a great way to celebrate with the amazing people we have met in the community and it truly warmed our hearts that in such a short time we experienced such love and care.”
Oruganti hopes to return to Los Robles next year to share the results of their research and to reconnect with the people she met.
“We hope to work more with Comunidad Connect in identifying areas of outreach to further promote health and wellness within the community,” Oruganti said. “It was tough so say our last ‘Adios!’ but we are so thankful to Comunidad Connect and la comunidad for our incredible first experience working in Nicaragua.”