Name: Osmari Beatriz Novoa
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
Degree: Master of Public Health in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention with a concentration in Maternal and Child Health
Where did you do your practicum?
Prior to COVID-19, I was supposed to complete my practicum at the Universidad Privada San Juan Bautista in Lima, Peru. I was going to work on a research study that looked at HIV/AIDS among immigrant populations there. Travel restrictions were put in place, and I was not able to complete my practicum in Peru. I was very excited about it because my family is from Peru, and I had been planning this opportunity since August 2019.
Luckily, Dr. Melissa Howard is a wonderful advisor and had the perfect opportunity for me. She is working on a collaborative research project with Healthy Start Coalition of Miami-Dade (HSCMD). The study looks at the feasibility of implementing an innovative tool to prevent poor pregnancy outcomes among at-risk mothers in Miami-Dade County. This study is very important because we are trying to find an effective way to lower stillbirths in Miami, where it's a major problem.
The practicum started in April 2020 and it is a remote practicum. HSCMD sent the materials I would need in order to effectively perform my practicum by mail.
What do you do there? What projects do you work on?
I am specifically only working on the research study between HSCMD and FIU. Each week I receive a log of women who are eligible and decided to participate in the study. I reach out to them via text and set up an appointment to begin the baseline survey. The study consists of a total of three surveys where we measure mothers’ knowledge on fetal movement as well as hear about their experiences utilizing the Count the Kicks App that is the innovative tool that we are testing in Miami-Dade County.
I contact participants, perform data collection, pay each participant and have weekly meetings with my advisors from HSCMD and FIU. I have also created the text message prompt that we send to each participant and a payment log that shows each payment that is made. I am constantly updating a Master Log that will be utilized for the HSCMD database.
What advice do you have for those beginning the internship / practicum process?
My advice for those beginning the internship/practicum process would be to plan ahead of time. Although, I did plan very early on where I wanted my practicum to take place, I wish I would have come up with a back-up plan. Of course, I did not know we would all be impacted by COVID-19 in the way we were. I got extremely lucky, If it were not for Dr. Howard and Dr. Pinzón knowing about my situation in Peru and looking for a student to help with the study, I do not know if I would have been able to come up with a practicum placement in time for the summer.
I also suggest that you keep an open mind. If you have your heart set on a particular placement, but have to go somewhere else, be open to the different people you will be working with and the types of tasks that you will be completing. You could potentially learn more than you initially thought as well as gain an experience that will set you apart from others on your resume.
How did this practicum connect back to your coursework?
This practicum is perfect for me because it has allowed me to gain experience in not only working directly with a community-based organization, but what it is like to conduct research alongside a community-based organization in collaboration with a university. This experience has gone beyond what I have learned in my courses on what it is like to work with community-based organizations. My coursework so far has definitely prepared me.
What was the coolest thing about this experience?
The coolest thing about my practicum is having the opportunity to communicate with our participants throughout their pregnancy. It is always so exciting for me to be able to make a connection with them as they talk to me about their growing babies, while I am also able to teach them about the importance of their babies’ movements in the womb. I am potentially giving them information and knowledge on an innovative app that could help save their babies’ lives!
What did you like most about your experience?
Even though I am working on a small study, I am learning what it is like to work with a community-based organization. The leaders of HSCMD have been more than helpful during this process. By far the people I am working with the most: Jeannette Torres and Ailyn Cardenas from HSCMD as well as Dr. Maria Claudia Pinzón and Dr. Melissa Howard from FIU have been very supportive and helpful throughout this entire process. They are encouraging and believe in me in a way that I could have never imagined. I feel very supported and always heard. I am beyond thankful for this experience!
What did you learn about yourself?
I learned that I am definitely capable of doing a lot more than I could have ever imagined. Completing a practicum remotely during a pandemic is not easy, to say the least. I have had to juggle my practicum, coursework, work and a pandemic. Although, I feel as if I have come out a lot stronger and much more confident person. Yes, maybe things did not go my way in the beginning with trying to complete my practicum in Peru, but everything happens for a reason, and I am learning things that will not only make me a better public health professional in the future, but an overall better person.
How did the position increase your professional confidence?
When working remotely, communication is key! I have to have the confidence to communicate what is working in the study and what is not working. Giving my feedback has helped create changes within the study that has helped us see better results. In the past, I have been very anxious about speaking up or I would get nervous, but I now have the confidence to give my input and it feels great to be heard and for changes to be made because of my input.
I have met people at HSCMD who have worked within community-based organizations for a long time and their experience speaks volumes. They have connections that may go beyond than what I could ever imagine. Also, the FIU faculty that I am working with have connections in academia that could be very beneficial for me when I am ready to take the next step in my academic career. All in all, as crazy as this experience has been, it is one that I will remember for all of the amazing people I have had the opportunity of meeting.