Rawnaq Behnam’s firsthand account of her experience at the Western Medical Research Conference

by Rawnaq Behnam

Global Health first-year student Rawnaq Behnam used Global Health Program funding to attend the Western Medical Research Conference this past January 2019 in Carmel, CA.

Rawnaq shared with us the following reflection on her experience:

“I am a first year undergraduate majoring in Global Health. After graduation, I plan on attending medical school to become an OB/GYN. I intend to pursue work in fields related to women’s health including gynecological and breast cancer prevention, antenatal care, and family planning. I am interested in understanding how policies, regulations, and clinical culture affect refugees and women’s health.

I started working as a qualitative research assistant at UCSD during my first month of college on an interdisciplinary project entitled: Assessing Barriers to Contraceptive Care among Resettled Refugee Women: A Mixed-Methods Investigation of Disparities in Quality and Access. Our goal is to understand how past and present experiences in reproductive healthcare settings affect women’s decisions in relation to family planning and contraceptives methods. We conduct person-centered interviews in order to understand their healthcare experiences and access barriers. I also co-conduct interviews in partnership with MD/PhD student Morgen Chalmiers and assist in interview transcription and translation. This helps us recap the information and consider any problem missed during the interview. We then use computer software to code the transcripts and identify recurring themes. Our goal is to better understand the problems surrounding our healthcare system and develop innovative policy suggestions to improve access to reproductive healthcare among resettled refugee women.  

I attended the Western Medical Research Conference this past January. During our presentation, I was able to give some background about the challenges faced by Syrian refugee women and describe the broader significance of our research.

I gained valuable experience in presenting at conferences. This was my first presentation at a professional conference, and it allowed me to learn about the many different kinds of health-related research taking place across the U.S.. I was able to meet other students who are conducting research related to Global Health and Women’s health. As a first year undergraduate student, it is important to push yourself to explore research opportunities early on. These experiences have allowed me to see how my introductory courses in chemistry and biology could relate to a future career in global health. Additionally, when studying for my many exams starts to seem overwhelming, witnessing the real world impact of global health research motivates me to keep working so that I can develop the skills needed to excel as a future researcher in Global Health.”

Do you have research to present at a conference? Use the Global Health Program Funding Request to apply for up to $200 to support conference travel!


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