Hi! My name is Mary Michael McDuff, and I will be working as a program associate for VaxTrac this summer in VaxTrac’s new Atlanta office. I am a rising senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I am majoring in Health Policy and Management in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, with a minor in medical anthropology. I am so excited about being a program associate at VaxTrac this summer because I believe it will allow me to see firsthand what healthcare delivery looks like in a underserved population, and more importantly, how we can apply technological solutions to make this delivery more efficient and effective.
It has been an incredible whirlwind of a first week! After a few days of orientation at the VaxTrac office in Washington, D.C., the other program associate this summer, Anita, and I moved into our new office in Atlanta on Monday. We settled right in and began drafting our Scopes of Work, which detail the projects we will be working on together, and individually, over the course of the summer. For many of my projects, I will be working closely with VaxTrac’s Monitoring and Evaluation Manager, Jessi Hanson, to revise our baseline tools. One of my favorite projects I will be working on this summer is researching the role of fathers in the immunization process in Benin and how to get mothers who do not come to the clinics to want to bring their children in for immunizations. Later this week, I will be traveling to Benin with Jessi in order to complete our research in the field and to help implement the revised baseline tools. I cannot wait to visit the clinics in Benin and to see VaxTrac’s project sites firsthand.
As a team, Anita and I will work with Jessi to fully research the paper vaccination records currently used in Benin in order to make our technological record even more comprehensive. Anita and I will also be tackling the creation of project management tools and needs assessment tools to be used in VaxTrac’s upcoming projects as VaxTrac expands into new countries. I am grateful to be working for VaxTrac at such an exciting time because the organization is set to start new projects this summer in the countries of Indonesia and Nepal.
It will be a summer of collaborative research and of rethinking current strategies, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of this dynamic, globally minded team!
Greetings from VaxTrac’s new office in Atlanta! My name is Anita Narayanan and I am one of VaxTrac’s program associates. As you will probably be seeing Mary Michael McDuff (the other program associate) and I post/tweet/Facebook over the next few months, it seems only fair that you know a little bit about me.
I was born and raised in Atlanta and moved to D.C. for my undergraduate degree where I majored in anthropology (specifically cultural and medical anthropology) at Georgetown University. During this time, I interned at a non-profit working on HIV/AIDS awareness in India, a small consulting firm whose primary client was the CDC, and in the private wealth management arm of a bank (I obviously took the “explore your options” advice to heart). After graduating, I moved to New York and began working full time with the same bank. For several years I enjoyed/survived the unique, high-stress environment, especially working in the industry during the financial crisis. After five years of working there, I started to feel the pull back my initial intellectual interest in healthcare. This led me to decide to head back to my hometown to get my MBA/MPH at Emory University.
I’ve just finished my first year in the program and knew I wanted to spend my summer working at an organization that focused on global health. I was lucky enough to hear about VaxTrac and very excited when I was hired as a program associate for the summer. We spent our first week training in D.C. where we learned about the organization, the projects we would be involved in, and got to know our awesome coworkers (through very entertaining team building exercises). It’s only my second week on the job, but I have already learned so much about healthcare delivery, vaccines, and fingerprint technology.
This summer, some of the projects I will be working on are to create a standardized needs assessment tool for planning future projects, analyze health worker practices to increase efficiency and identify best practices, and create a process map to streamline and consolidate record keeping techniques. All of these projects directly appeal to my interest in processes and systems management within the healthcare industry. This summer will give me the opportunity to learn about the inner workings of global health along with the new experience of working at a startup non-profit and traveling abroad to visit the health clinics first hand. I am excited to be working here and feel very lucky to work with such a great team! P.S.-Sadly, the dog in the picture is not mine, but I seem to have very few pictures of myself without a random dog with me (until I get a dog, I just make friends with people who have dogs and then spend more time with the dogs than my friends).
Last weekend I had the singular pleasure of spending a night with some of the best and brightest young minds in the country. I’m talking about ID Hack, a 24 hour hackathon put on by the Harvard Developers for Development and the MIT Global Poverty Initiative. Unlike some other hackathons the aim wasn’t to create the next Facebook based platform to allow users to rate attractiveness of their friends cousins or something equally vapid and zeitgeisty, it was to put young developers in touch with globally focused NGOs with real technical needs. [Also to stay up all night and eat pizza] We all showed up with a project or problem, pitched to the more than 100 young brains and they formed teams to tackle them.
Our pitch wasn’t quite as straight forward as some, we weren’t looking for a new website, we wanted deeper analytic measures. Our pitch was this: VaxTrac has piles of data, our stakeholders are used to asking for the typical metrics and we provide them. However, we collect more data than a typical immunization program, what metrics can we create from our piles of data that can inform and empower local decision makers? Once we find a metric, how can we visualize it in an interesting way?
I spent the night working with two students; Michael a freshman in CS at MIT, and Wanli, a masters student in Psychology at Brandeis. We wanted a simple analog (probably over-simple) for the efficacy of any particular clinic. We chose the average schedule adherence and vaccination rates for two vaccines with a single dose in the first year , BCG and Yellow Fever. BCG is given at birth and Yellow Fever at 9 months. We looked at the number of doses of each for each clinic and also the average age at which each child who got the vaccine received it. Based on this we built a map showing which clinics most closely adhered to the set schedule. You could clearly between the two maps, which clinics were retaining the most children from the birth dose to the nine month dose. Not bad for a night’s work!
[Note: We mapped real clinics to random cities, this map isn't representative of actual regional performance. Also we were working with meta-data, not patient records.]
Again, I’d like to thank my team. They chose one of the more abstract problems available and I think they did a fantastic job.
Arriving in the tourist epicenter that is Bali—surrounded by five-star resorts and haute couture outposts—was a bit of a change from my normal travel patterns, in which I find myself more often in the remote hills of rural Africa. It was difficult to reconcile what I was seeing with the ultimate reason for my trip, which was to learn more about the challenges faced in delivering health care in the emerging market of Indonesia where 35% of one of the world’s largest birth cohorts is not fully vaccinated.
As a quick primer, Indonesia is a country of 17,000 islands with a population of 250 million people. The country’s gross national income—a good proxy for evaluating how “developed” a country is—puts Indonesia at a level on par with Guatemala or Ukraine. All of these factors make the country a great site for our newest project. The higher relative wealth translates to better infrastructure and a health workforce with more training. However, there are still some interesting challenges stemming from the dispersed geography and the cultural elements of being the world’s largest predominantly Muslim country.
I spent the week leading up to Christmas traveling around the country, meeting with health officials and observing firsthand how the health system operates. In only five days, I was able to visit three different islands (only 16,997 to go!) and see numerous health facilities. We even got to register an adorable Indonesian child in the VaxTrac system as a live demo for several health workers.
While we were also in Jakarta and Bali (for work, I swear) we spent the bulk of our time assessing the health system through site visits on the island of Batam, located 12 miles off the coast of Singapore. This provided us a great opportunity to see the true nature of how vaccines are delivered, the realities of which can never be conveyed without observing directly. It didn’t hurt that we also got a chance to sample the incredible local cuisine.
This trip was phenomenally successful, and we have laid the groundwork for what I think will be an impactful project over the coming years. This could not have been done without the support of many individuals from the Ministry of Health, WHO-Indonesia and CDC-Atlanta, but I would like to especially thank Dr. Sandra from MoH, Dr. Michael Friedman from WHO and Dr. Susana Panero from CDC.
We’ve added a new major release of our immunization tracking software.
Here are some screenshots from our newest version: