Thursday, November 6, 2014

Rude Awakening

            I woke to five loud thumps. At first, I thought it was just a more realistic part of my already vivid dream about a giant woodpecker terrorizing the streets of San José. Alas, it was not. After five more thumps, this time quicker and louder, I realized it was the door to our room, or rather, someone knocking on the door to our room. I woke in a daze, but quickly answered the door to find Josée standing outside, fully dressed in a business casual outfit. She was there to wake Will and me up because we had a surprise meeting with a representative from the Ministry of Health in 10 minutes. This meeting was crucial because our independent research project depends heavily on a database of EBAIS visits made by the Ministry of Health, and this man was going to give us what we needed. Will and I immediately rushed to throw on some nice clothes, brush our teeth, and gather our things for our meeting. It turned out that we probably didn't need to be so formal and we probably didn't have to freak out so much because the meeting was fairly relaxed, but we still made it on time, asked great questions, and looked really good doing it. 
            While this incident was fairly straightforward and had few negative repercussions, it made me realize why I love being here. This program continues to show me how amazing real-life research can be. The research itself is extremely exciting; to be able to compile and visualize over 1.1 million primary health care EBAIS visits since 2005 and to give graphs of disease trends back to the Ministry of Health at the end is an unbelievable opportunity. But to be able to do it ourselves, to actually experience the research process in its entirety, is an absolutely incredible feeling. The reason I was still smiling during my meeting that morning instead of being grumpy from my "rude awakening" was because I was so excited to do real work for a real research project. During our talk with Luis Montero, we spoke with him about what the database is, how it is organized, what we should be looking for, how we should navigate the data, and what we should expect for results, and all in Spanish. We got answers to questions we created on our own, answers that will help us formulate our project and make it as good as it can possibly be.
            Later in the week, we got to do the same thing again. Will, Josée, and I were meeting with the Director of the Coto Brus Area of Health at his office. Will and I went to breakfast, where we were informed that our meeting had been moved and we had to be ready to go in 30 minutes. We sprinted back to the house, woke up Josée, and got ready once again. While the roles were reversed, it was still just so much fun to be stressed and running around like crazy because we were doing something so official and authentic. Our meeting went very well and we got all the information we needed, but we also had a great time doing it yet again.
            These experiences taught me a very important lesson: in research, things often go worse than you hope, but it is in those moments that your real character needs to shine through. Our professors have tried to explain this many times, but it didn't really sink in until I actually had it happen to me. It would have been so easy for me to be grumpy and upset when I needed to jump out of bed and run around trying to get ready for our meetings, but by rising above that temptation and adapting to the situation, I made our project better and thoroughly enjoyed myself because of it. While I very much prefer when our project goes as planned, I know my next rude awakening (as I'm sure there will be more) will be just as good as the last.

David Monroe
Duke University '16
Trinity School of Arts and Sciences
(714) 724-0640

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