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.