Meet Samantha Perry ’18, a Periclean Scholar majoring in human service studies who is studying how global public health issues play out at the community level in Nakaseke, Uganda, as part of her Lumen Prize.
There is much to celebrate in the many and varied accomplishments of our Elon College Fellows, Samantha Perry ’18 is no exception.
Sam is a Human Service Studies major, Periclean Scholar, Fulbright Scholar (awarded an English teacher assistantship to India) and Lumen Prize winner. Her undergraduate research project led her to study approaches to health care, including HIV/AIDS awareness and treatment, at the community level in Nakaseke, Uganda. Her project mentor is Cindy Fair, professor of public health studies and human service studies and chair of the Department of Public Health Studies. Fair, whose research has long centered on the HIV/AIDS epidemic, helped Sam to establish research partners at the University of California-Berkley and Touro University.
Then, working with Dr. Robert Kalyesubula, the founder and executive director of ACCESS Uganda, a community-based health organization that utilizes the Village Health Team model to expand medical care to vulnerable groups, Sam traveled to the African country and conducted interviews with Village Health Team workers. She strove to identify the challenges that these dedicated volunteers face as they strive to foster connections between the community and Ugandan health care facilities, often having to overcome barriers of cultural and language difference.
“I’ve been able to develop a more nuanced understanding of what it means to really partner with communities and to do work that is beneficial to them and to the greater body of research,” Sam said. “I think it’s one thing to talk about community development and human rights in a classroom context. It’s very easy to talk about policy, what the best practices are, and to have this super-optimistic save-the-world attitude. But to go to the community—to live with them, to eat with them, to talk with them—brings a whole other, greater, deeper understanding of what it means to do community development work.”
Not only will Sam be sharing her findings with Dr. Kalyesubula, she has submitted an abstract to the International AIDS Conference, for inclusion in the IAC’s July conference in Amsterdam. It is entitled, “Outsiders, Insiders, and Intermediaries: Village Health Teams negotiation of roles to provide high quality HIV care in Nakaseke, Uganda.” She has also submitted two abstracts to the American Public Health Association conference to be held in San Diego in October 2018. She hopes that the dissemination of her research findings will help to expand the use and effectiveness of Village Health Team workers in sub-Saharan Africa.
Through her undergraduate research in this field, Sam is raising her voice for sustainable change, social justice and positive health outcomes. Sam plans to attend University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration to pursue her master’s degree in social work this fall.