Ankita Reddy's interest in understanding medicine and health through interdisciplinary lenses brought her to South Africa. After taking two anthropology classes – Global Mental Health and Infections and Inequalities: Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Global Health – she wanted to continue learning about the many layers of global health and how it is influenced by Western medicine. Through MIT- South Africa Ankita was able to engage in clinical research in South Africa, allowing her to understand her role as a Westerner in global healthcare.
Anikta interned at the Development Health Pathways Research Unit (DHPRU) in the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, the largest hospital in the Southern Hemisphere. She was impressed by the masses of people coming in and out of the hospital and the never-ending lines at the pharmacy which differed from her experience at hospitals in the US. Through the course of her summer, Ankita collaborated with a team working to uncover the role of eating disorders in South Africa. She used an extension of the “Birth to Twenty Cohort” – a study which follows participants born after Mandela’s release from prison – Africa’s largest and longest running study of child/adolescent health development, and one of few large-scale longitudinal studies in the world. Ankita analyzed data regarding eating habitss and body image in post-adolescent women in urban and rural settings.
Ankita also gained first-hand experience recruiting and working with participants for various studies. For instance, she helped recruit mothers who had just given birth at the maternity ward. Some of her most memorable times at DPHRU were the conversations she had with the mothers. The mothers would talk about the healthcare system and political landscape, how they view motherhood, and their personal experiences. Ankita felt this was especially pertinent as she arrived during the municipal elections and worked in Soweto, the epicenter of the Apartheid resistance. Through her involvement in these studies, Ankita learned some of the nuances of recruiting in a global health setting such as adjusting speech patterns and mannerisms and understanding what information is most important to convey.
"My experience in South Africa gave me the tools to understand medicine through a new cultural context, allowing me to appreciate the complexities of global health – a perspective I would not have gained unless I purposefully engaged with the clinical studies and the people involved in every step of the process."