Chrysomethis Kishore does STD research in Guyana.
Senior, Biomedical Education (Sophie Davis)
My Experience Summary:
Over the summer I went to Guyana to conduct research regarding the determinants of condom use among young adults. I designed the project with the idea that whatever I study should somehow add to current HIV and STD prevention efforts. Guyana is divided into 10 regions and over 8 weeks I was able to survey patients in waiting rooms at major hospitals in each region. My mentor on the ground, Dr. Maraj helped facilitate approval for my study in Guyana and logistics on how to get around the country.
Why I went:
I was born in Guyana but, moved here when I was five years old. Growing up, my dad would tell me stories about a place I could faintly remember. He would tell me about adventures he would have as a youth and I imagined it to be a tropical paradise. Well, when I went back for the first time two years ago, it took some time to recall that vision. The country had a funny odor and I had to wash my own clothes by hand, not to mention that the entire country was devoid of air-conditioning. What was most striking however was the poverty and lack of infrastructure such as roads, bridges, telephone service, and sewage system that was apparent. I was also surprised by the HIV public service commercials although, I didn’t realize the extent that HIV was an epidemic until I did research about its effects in Guyana. I had always entertained the idea of going back to Guyana and helping, but this thought was solidified when I saw the extreme need myself.
Growing up my dad would often recount his experiences as an officer in the Guyanese army and his work in the “interior” (Amazon) helping the locals by bringing medical supplies and utilities there. He raised his children to consider themselves Guyanese and to have love for their birthplace. I know that part of my adventurous personality and desire to help people is due to the way I was raised.
While Guyana is in need of research in many various topics, HIV is the number one cause of death for people my age. However, research is limited and I wanted to contribute knowledge that could be used to help aid in the prevention efforts.
What I Learned:
I learned how to cook Guyanese food. I learned about the food, music, smells, and sounds that I have come to associate with my country. I learned about tropical medicine and how remote Amerindian villages receive medical care.
What I learned the most I think is the importance of the individuals’ environment – in the broadest sense of the word encompassing country, city or town or neighborhood or village, housing conditions, food and food quality, water availability and quality, clothing, birth order, family life and responsibilities, daily activities etc - are all critical factors to the way we see the world, how we live our life, and our specific health care needs . I suppose these environmental factors are what really make people so “different” from one another. However, although we are so “different” we are infinitely more similar. From the biological makeup of our bodies to our human needs for survival. We all feel hungry, coldness and/or hotness, tiredness, sickness, sadness, happiness, in all degrees and in one form or another in our life. Basically, we are all people doing the best that we can to live in our given environment with our given experiences as our guide.
My most memorable experience was going on an outreach with a medical team on the Barima River in region 1 of Guyana. The outreach is to vaccinate children and provide prenatal care to Amerindian villages that are located along the river. We went to three villages-Red Hill, Blackwater-Savannah, and Barima Cariabu- and spent a night in the last one, sleeping in the local clinic. These villages have no running water and no electricity. It was amazing to see how people live completely surrounded by the jungle and to be able to interact and speak with them.
Advice For Others:
Trying to find a mentor in Guyana was difficult since it is a very poor country and Internet availability is not widely available. Therefore, I used my relatives on the ground to help me make a contact with a doctor who would be willing to be my mentor. If you are having trouble making contact with someone directly in a third-world country, I advise that you find someone who has contacts in the country and work from there.
Georgetown beach- Guyana's capital:
Pictures of the different hospitals I went to and of the different villages I went to.