I left Trinidad and Tobago with a stomach full of West Indian delicacies and a passion to continue working in the global landscape fighting the growing burden of chronic disease.
During my time in the Eastern Caribbean I assisted the delegation in implementing their health information systems strategy. Given the growing burden of chronic disease in the region, the delegation wanted an electronic medical records system to better capture data on the burden of chronic disease, along with relevant risk factors. I worked with Ministry of Health staff to discuss scale-up for usage and the possibilities of useful reports the software can generate.
During my final week in country, I traveled to the SouthWest province where the pilot electronic medical records system will be implemented. The software chosen for the project is currently being used in a limited manner in a clinic in Siparia. I visited this clinic with delegates to view first-hand the limitations and successes of data collection in health clinics. It was a fantastic learning opportunity to meet with staff and learn about cultural barriers to implementation.
Any Trini will tell you that the best street food comes from a small town called Débé in the SouthWest province. I stopped there after the clinic and my taste buds marveled at the doubles (fried bread with curried chick peas), aloo pies (Trinidad samosa) and saheena (fried spinach goodness). The food is inspired by India, but distinctly Trinidadian. Ordering it with “plenty pepper” is certainly not for the weak of heart.
Returning to New Haven, my life in Trinidad seems a bit of a blur. What I remember most saliently is the excitement I felt at turning a problem, with a complex solution involving many players and cultural barriers, into a reality. There is no doubt this formative experience will shape the second year of my MPH program and inspire my career in global health.