Getting Started: Mongolian Health Initiative

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My summer research internship with the Mongolian Health Initiative officially started when I arrived in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia during the first week of July. However, as I had been in contact with my supervisor and the organization, I began some work and preparation remotely during the month of June. As such, I was able to feel adequately familiar with the organization and my research topic, and much of my work since I’ve arrived has been a continuation of the work I began in June. The internship site I am at is called the Mongolian Health Initiative (MHI), and it is located in Ulaanbaatar, which is the capital city of Mongolia. It was founded by my supervisor, Dr. Ganmaa Davasambuu, and consists of an association of physicians, scientists, epidemiologists, and policy experts. MHI’s purpose is the work towards advancing Mongolian public health through research and policy implementation. The organization has conducted the most extensive nutritional assessment on Mongolian adults to date and has ongoing training and research in micronutrients, nutritional intervention, and maternal health studies, including the ones of which I am a part.

My internship responsibilities require me  to be flexible to the needs of the study and my supervisor, which reflects the variable nature of fieldwork and research. As of now,, my responsibilities have included a) reviewing relevant literature and studies to familiarize myself with the research topic, b) reading and organizing data collected for the study a for publication, and c) writing the draft paper based on the data. As this is a fairly extensive study, I anticipate my responsibility to remain fairly focused in these three areas for the remainder of my internship.

As I was researching summer internship opportunities during the semester, I was introduced to this internship with MHI by an individual who had previously interned for Dr. Ganmaa Davaasambuu, my supervisor. I emailed Dr. Ganmaa, introduced myself, expressed interest in interning for her during the summer, and attached a resume. She responded positively, and after several emails back and forth, she accepted me as a research intern. As far as tips on securing an internship, I would emphasize how important it is to be genuinely passionate about the research being conducted! Enthusiasm and sincerity gives a great first impression, and is, of course, imperative during the internship itself.

While the first week has been largely a continuation the work I was doing remotely, it has also been growing and challenging in new ways. It has taught me to stay on my toes and be available to adapt to any situation, as projects and plans are always shifting. This has especially been true because I am a research intern at an organization where there is no official summer internship program for undergraduate students. This first week has taught me how to be both communicative and independent as a great deal of my assigned work has minimal instructions, which has allowed me to grow in my problem solving skills.  When communication has been unclear or delayed, I am learning to take the initiative more often.

This summer, I expect to learn a great deal about my study topics: a) breast cancer risk factors in urban and rural areas and b) tuberculosis and vitamin D supplementation. I also expect to learn and grow in my personal research skills, including the hands-on aspects as well as the logistics of working and collaborating in a research environment. I hope to gain exposure to research methods and take away personal applications. Already, I have found that I am learning more about data analysis, organization, and scientific publication. I’m excited for this coming month and all that this internship has to offer!

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