What attracted you to the health metrics field?
I had never even considered global health before picking up the book Mountains Beyond Mountains, but Paul Farmer’s biography is a bit too inspiring. I read of the beginnings of Partners in Health, a global health organization that works primarily in Haiti, and before I knew it I’d applied to multiple positions in PIH’s Latin American locations. I ended up spending nine months volunteering in southern Mexico with Partners in Health. While there, I supervised data collection for a two-year study on community health workers, did data analysis for active case findings in remote communities, and stumbled into plenty of other projects along the way. I got really good at talking about structural violence in Spanish. Once you enter the world of global health and see such astounding health disparities firsthand, it’s hard to leave. There's too much to do. Too many wrongs to right.
What work are you doing at IHME?
I work on risk factors, specifically tobacco. We generate global estimates on how many people are using tobacco, broken down by location, age, sex, and type of tobacco, then track changes. We create estimates of per capita tobacco consumption for each country. We try to capture the elusive effects of secondhand smoke on the population at large. And we find, extract, and use heaps of data.
How do you think your experience at IHME will contribute to your future work?
IHME is really excellent at training you to think systematically. I feel like I can break down any problem I'm interested in now, provided there’s enough data and a way to code it all into something meaningful (and there’s always a way). Whatever I do in the future, I’m bringing my newfound understanding of R and coding with me.