The Human Experience of Supporting a Humphrey Fellow

Emily Lanford

USAID ASSIST Project/URC

Beginning on May 1, 2013, the health workforce development (HWD) unit at University Research Company (URC), LLC began its six week sponsorship of Madhavi Dwivedi, a Humphrey Fellow from India whose host was Emory University.  The objective of her work was to identify ways to strengthen the existing engagement tool that is being applied to URC’s Community Support activity in Uganda.   As a part of her work at URC, she conducted a literature review on engagement and influencing factors such as supervision and feedback.  Additionally, Madhvi identified existing M-health initiatives that are currently being applied across the healthcare field in efforts to improve clinical outcomes.  Madhvi presented her findings internally to URC staff on Thursday, June 13th.

While the objectives of Madhvi’s work are outlined above, there were important lessons learned from a personal perspective, which I am interested in highlighting in this blog.  Upon Madhvi’s arrival into the URC office, I served as her point person—ensuring that she had the necessary supplies and laptop to carry out her work.  Additionally, I introduced her to other members of the staff, in an attempt to make her feel more comfortable within this new working environment. 

From the first day, it was obvious to me that Madhvi appreciated my efforts and felt comfortable coming to me with questions and requesting help with things she either didn’t understand or know how to do.   Possessing a HIV-related background that included working with migrants in India and suburban slums to educate and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, the topic of her assignment at URC was unfamiliar.  Having spoken very limited English when she arrived in the United States one year prior, it isn’t unreasonable to assume that her task seemed daunting.

The overall experience of hosting a Humphrey Fellow was positive for me.  Not only did I acquire sought after supervisory skills, but I also learned a great deal about effective ways to interface with others from differing backgrounds to obtain results.  That said, the most rewarding aspect of this partnership for me was attending the Host Appreciation Breakfast on Wednesday, June 2013 and the conversation Madhvi and I had afterwards. 

While at the reception, Madhvi was very excited to introduce me to both her program friends and others who had helped her secure her sponsorship with URC.  Furthermore, she repeatedly expressed her deep appreciation for the opportunity to work as part of the health workforce unit at our company and reiterated many times that she was eager to apply lessons learned from her research on engagement to future professional endeavors back home in India. 

While I had known that Madhvi had experienced some personal difficulties during her time at URC, our short journey back to the office was when I witnessed firsthand her compassion for others and was when I was presented the opportunity to acquire greater insight into her unique story and the future struggles she will have to manage once back in India. 

Before embarking on the subway, Madhvi requested that we stop for a moment, during which time she walked over to a homeless person laying on the street and handed him a brown paper bag.  When she returned, she explained to me that hand delivering lunch was an act she carried out daily to help those less fortunate than herself.  Witnessing this act of kindness made me reflect upon the ways in which I could also better serve my community and the aspects of my life that I sometimes take for granted. 

I have been very fortunate throughout my life to have been presented numerous personal and professional opportunities to interact with individuals from varying cultural backgrounds and countries.  Each instance has helped to shape my world views and realize that people, regardless of where they originate, are more similar than they are different.  I was very glad that I had the opportunity to both help Madhvi fulfill her professional objectives while at URC, but that I also obtained a window of understanding into the experiences that have shaped her as a person and the obstacles she will be faced with after leaving the United States.

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