Carmina Mancenon, 2014, Operations Research and Financial Engineering
Over nine weeks this summer, I implemented a rural healthcare research project in Zithulele Village, South Africa. One of the founding doctors of the hospital estimated that around a third of the Xhosan women in the hospital’s maternity ward had lost a child. Using this as a starting point, my research focused on the effect of child mortality on women’s fertility choices within the Zithulele Hospital patient base. My research involved both quantitative and ethnographic approaches. I collected and processed data from maternity case records, then built on these statistics by learning more about the surrounding culture (eg. Xhosa medication, family planning ideals, etc.). This was done by interviewing people in the community: mothers, fathers, doctors, and traditional healers. The culmination of my research was a presentation I gave to the hospital doctors and staff, a written summary, and a working academic paper. Being immersed the Xhosan lifestyle and people, with all the resources and time to complete a research project, was, for me, the best way to understand a new culture, learn first-hand about the research process, and add a new dimension to my perceptions on rural health.