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Vikas Goswamy investigates sex education in Brazil.
Senior, Biomedical Studies
My Experience Summary:
I traveled to Vitoria, Brazil as a part of the Mack Lipkin Broader Horizons Fellowship program at the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education. In Vitoria I conducted research at Hospital Universitário Cassiano Antonio de Morais (HUCAM) at the Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo (UFES). My mentors were Dr. João Nunes, Dr. Ana Motta-Moss, faculty at Sophie Davis, and Dr. Francisco Zaganelli, a pediatrician in Vitoria, whose work focuses on ensuring better neonatal care for children of teenage mothers. I worked with Dr. Zaganelli in Brazil from June 21 to August 6 in the ambulatory units at HUCAM. Under his guidance I conducted research that focused on sexual education among adolescents. During my time in Vitoria, I surveyed patients between the ages of 13 and 19 in the waiting rooms at various ambulatory units at the hospital. The focus of the research was to understand the level of education the students have received on sexual education and how this has influenced their sexual practices. Teenage pregnancy and unsafe sexual practice are problems in rural and urban Brazil, but are not addressed as largely in smaller cities as is in larger cities.
Why I went:
I have always wanted to travel and be completely immersed in a different culture. Being born and raised in New York, I have never been able to completely understand the culture of another country. Living in Brazil for 7 weeks allowed me to live and work with other Brazilians, as a Brazilian. Not only did I work and conduct my research in Brazil, but I ate Brazilian food, listened to Brazilian music, and began speaking Portuguese.
What I Learned:
One of the most important lessons I learned from Brazilian culture centers around race. On my research questionnaire, one of the questions asked was race. This question returned some of the most interesting answers, ranging from "braziliero" or Brazilian to "humano" or human. To all those in Brazil, no matter their background or skin color, they are Brazilian.
In the process of conducting my research, I saw numerous teenage girls with as many as 3 children. These girls motivated me to not only learn something from my research, but to work to give something back. I plan on using the information that I have gathered to create and implement an intervention to teach teenagers about safe sex. In addition to my research, I met people from all walks of life; from international medical students to people traveling the world for up to a year. I was also able to experience the favelas, or slums of Rio de Janeiro, to see communities where teenage pregnancy was nothing but normal, and a household of 7 to 10 children was average.
Advice For Others:
Travel. If I had the chance again, I would travel to other countries and experience the world. My time abroad has changed me as a person and has allowed me to experience life in a new light. To see the way those in another country live and think has given me a new prospective in how we live and how I would like to go about my daily life.
(left to right) Me, my host, and Chalese Richardson (other Sophie Davis student)