Closing remarks

A mere decade ago, I too was an adolescent and a very nerdy, geeky, one at that. I had a great number of dreams, I did reasonably well at school and university. All of this was possible because I was in good health. I am so privileged to have been the first IAVI 6 month fellow on adolescent health at DTHF. With the necessary health, adolescents have the potential to contribute the economic growth and bring about a demographic dividend in sub-Saharan Africa, I learnt.

I am now writing to you from Windhoek, Namibia, where I began this journey just over 6 months ago. I want to just briefly report back on the experience. I choose brevity, because I could write several volumes on my experience and I am not sure this will be of interest to anyone.

Before, I was just a public health student. Now I had hands on experience with conducting a research study, liaising with researchers, talking to policy people and presenting at international conferences. By means of example, the paper I have worked since I began the fellowship – the Tuberculosis study – facilitated this process. One thing I learnt that I wish to keep is the writing style. When writing for an academic journal, you leave out the advocacy. But one can bring that in at other occasions, such as blog posts. Here is what I want to say – its not enough to just claim young people are important. Governments need to step up their efforts to make sure no young person falls through the cracks, especially in the case of tuberculosis. Thinking back, one of my first experiences at the TB clinics here in Windhoek was seeing a young man outside the clinic, he could not have been older than 15 and must have had TB, because he was emaciated. We should not see that every again anywhere.

Second, I realized – go with my passion. I discovered during the training for an implementation science project I attended that I really wanted to do something for transgender adolescents. And I have had the opportunity to meet leaders in the field of providing competent health services to transgender persons, at the AIDS conference. I hope to now also bring that project to fruition, but sourcing the mPowerment manual for young transgender women.

Finally, I am grateful for the support I received from DTHF. It really has been so easy – from the flights, to my accomodation and attendance of international AIDS conference. I would then give the fellowship organization an A. My only wish is that I had more of an experience of the different interventions in the communities where DTHF works. I did manage to visit the TB clinic on one occasion and attend training at Crossroads, but I missed out on the youth center and emavundleni. Granted, I did have a chance to attend when the team from IAVI came to the organization, so maybe I should have gone when I had the chance.

Nevertheless, let me continue to seize the day here.

Thank you

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Practicum diary one of 3 Setember

On the 2nd of September, I presented my practicum project infront of the staff of the DTHF and Professor Leslie London.I want to succinctly note to myself what I found most meaningful. I hope this will do more than fulfill my obligation to maintain a reflective journal, I hope it will give me future direction.

I spoke at great length about my experience – using an autoethnographic approach – in relation to a manual for future fellows. Hold, this is a watershed moment – I started this blog in 2010 when the MPH was just a dream, on the heels of my reading of the ethnography by João Biehl.
To think that I presented on my own research project using a qualitative research methodology is something I am elated about.

Now do I still feel that I need to go forth and pursue a PhD in medical anthropology? Well, as I discovered during the MPH, anthropology is quite a high ivory tower to climb and I probably would not gain admittance. But I can do public health.

I spoke about what I found meaningful during the fellowship and talking with policy makers features at the top of my list. I am really curious about that endeavour, researchers talking to policy makers,because concessions are made, findings are recast and the impact on policy ultimately may be different to what the researcher expected. In my experience, this had to do with how the City of Cape Town understood our findings regarding default from TB care, for its adolescent patients. Yet this also extends to much larger issue of findings among key populations across Africa. Often, the HIV risks of these populations remain unacknowledged.

I wonder then whether I need to find a way of getting research into policy and practice. Would this be a sensible direction for future study?

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Practicum diary

From: Pancho Mulongeni <writinghealth>
Date: 24 August 2016 at 17:24
Subject: Practicum diary
To: WordPress blog – in time of great frustration, my solace in this time of labor pain.

I met a sociology postgraduate student or fellow or lecturer, I am not sure, a friendly lady who laughed at how flusttered I was over pagination; she overhead my conversation with Enoch, a classmate in the MPh. Such are the birth pains of my MPH mini-thesis, I am struggling with formatting. I told her "I am doing an autoethnography, but I am not very skilled I am just trying."Don’t be fooled, even those who write the textbook are just trying." she said

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Practicum diary entry 17th August

I have been rather preoccupied with finishing my mini dissertation. Yet I want to take time to reflect not so much on the pains for finishing the referencing of this massive document, but just on what the adolescent fellowship means.

As the time to my presentation approaches, I think realized what I should highlight. Adolescence is a time for identity formation and exploration, with young people achieving amazing feats, pushing the boundaries of what even adults believe is possible. Unfortunately it is also a time of health risk, not least because of sexual debut in the context of high prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases. This is why the IAVI fellowship is important – we aim to add to a field that will protect the youth from years of life lost due to sickness, especially HIV.

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Submitting dissertation poem

So as it turns out,That I had to turn it in today,
but because I did not have the turn it in report, there was a delay,
all the better,
I thought I would have lost my fee rebate,
and I was so full of worry, that I would be late,
and graduation next year would be my fate,
Now I discover that in this post-graduate world,
there is no need to fear,
even one day later is no disaster,
nor one day early make the process faster,
examiners need to be found,
so you have some time for that dissertation to be bound,

Good night

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Research fellow and Student

Being a research fellow entails having to work on papers, a dissertation or both, while looking out for funding. I noticed this in myself, I am reading about a world nutrition conference grant, though I have a massive mini dissertation to finish. I need to be aware now of the importance of protecting time. Or perhaps it is important to remember I am student. And as a student I need to dedicate a great deal of time writing, because the dissertation is something I have not done before and I am not sure how it will go.

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Closing six weeks

I have not said so long, farewell, goodbye just yet!I still have 6 weeks here. In this time I hope to first of all hand in my dissertation, analyze these diary posts using an auto-ethnographic approach and of course write up that paper on TB in adolescents.

I must mention however, last week has been a sad one. Just after the TB and AIDS 2016 conferences, we lost one of our researchers here at UCT to TB. On the day I handed in my first draft of my TB paper, I found out about this death. I did not know the person, so I did not attend most of the service. I spent it writing up the paper.
And I produced an excellent first draft, so says my mentor.

May the soul of that researcher rest in peace.

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