At any given time of year, there are scores of students, faculty and researchers off campus—some way, way off campus—in the Dominican Republic, Peru, Ghana, Liberia—providing aid, serving fellowships and gaining experience they can apply to their work, and their patients, here at home. As an ongoing, periodic feature on UMassMedNow, we will profile some of these travelers and give you some insight into the impact—both small scale and large—that the people of UMMS are making on our world.
For Robin Klar, DNSc, RN, assistant professor of nursing, the three disciplines “are the perfect triangle for me.” Dr. Klar, who has conducted focused ethnography, a form of anthropological research important to improving health in different cultures and communities, will join the project as a fellow of the Post-Doctoral Traineeship for Global Health Research at CWRU. Funded by a $228,000 grant from the National Institute of Health’s Fogarty International Center and the National Institute of Nursing Research, the project brings together fellows from all three disciplines to study self-management of potential drug treatments for lymphatic filiriasis in Papua, New Guinea.
LF is a parasitic infection, easily and widely transmitted via mosquito bites, that causes blockages and retention of fluid in the lymphatic system, resulting in gross enlargement of the body’s extremities. While practically unheard of in the United States, LF is prevalent in some developing countries. Those afflicted by this chronic disease, which can lead to more serious illnesses, are burdened with considerable physical, psychological and social disabilities, prompting the World Health Organization to call for its elimination by 2015.
“This was a call for team science,” explained Klar, who will be the nursing fellow on a multidisciplinary research team, which also includes a fellow selected by CWRU’s Center for Global Health and Disease and Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at its School of Medicine, and a fellow selected by the Department of Anthropology from the College of Arts and Sciences at CWRU. Incorporating behavioral and ethnographic research with a drug trial, each post-doctoral fellow will work with principal investigators from their respective disciplines. Under the direction of Elizabeth Madigan, professor of nursing at CWRU’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, Klar will conduct a study on self-management of patients with LF, similar to a project she has already done in Ghana.