komal-kumar

Komal Kumar

Komal Kumar obtained her MPH in Epidemiology & Biostatistics from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is a researcher, public health advocate, and a 2017-2018 Fulbright Scholar to South Africa.

http://www.koandkompany.com

Fulbright-to-Fulbright: The End

All good things must come to an end. I will admit my “end” was bittersweet, open-ended, and odd. Guess what? That’s ok! Some of you may have ‘the next thing’ lined up all ready to go. Others may not. If you are in this latter category, not to worry, I’ve got you covered! And even if you do have ‘the next thing’ to go to, you may still find the advice relevant.   ONE: Warning: you may or may not finish your project. Another tough thing to deal with when you lean towards having a “Type-A personality” like myself, is dealing with the lack of closure. I tend to seek completeness or sense of conclusion. But you might not get the “typical” closure you expected or desired. You will soon realize you didn’t need it. You will evolve to recognize those small interactions, like engaging with strangers on the street, building relationships with new colleagues abroad, all add up to this larger experience called ‘The Fulbright’. What you gained from the experience is far more than one line on your CV.   TWO: Join the Alumni Association. Participate in the Fulbright Conference. Continue to grow your work, projects, and networks. Take initiative. This was the case before the Fulbright and it is the same case after the Fulbright. You will have to continue to take initiative, seek answers, and...

Fulbright-to-Fulbright: The Middle

The Fulbright scholarship is one of several United States Cultural Exchange Programs whose goal is to improve intercultural relations,  diplomacy, and competence between the people of the United States and other countries through the exchange of persons, knowledge, and skills. It is one of the most prestigious and competitive fellowship programs in the world. Yet, even after being competitively selected, sometimes when you are in country, you can’t see what impact you are having by being there or what you are truly gaining from the experience. It is only when you leave when you realize the impact of your time. But to get you through where you are right now, here are some notes to reassure you that you will be okay, you are doing enough, and you are growing so much even though it may not feel like it.   ONE: First 1-3 months allow yourself to observe. Don’t beat yourself up to try to get things done give yourself the time to observe. Scope the scene. Part of the experience is leaning into the discomfort you are feeling, you will eventually learn to find comfort in discomfort. By embracing these silent challenges, you will find your edges, and finding your edges makes you self-aware. Being self-aware is growth.   TWO: You will get frustrated. You will get resistance. The Fulbright is challenging. And for good reason. If it weren’t challenging, you wouldn’t...

Fulbright-to-Fulbright: The Beginning

You made it! You made it this far. And for what its worth, I am proud of you! After a year of working on the proposal and statement, attending interviews, anticipating the announcement of semi-finalists and then surviving the anxiety-ridden months until finalists are revealed, I remember the day I received the notification. And so will you. Forever. But what I also remember is the one-day of pure serenity, of not having to wait in anticipation or respond just yet. Just to be. That sweet brief silence you experience. Savor it. Because after the silence broke, in flooded the paperwork, the visa applications, the immunization records, the travel insurance, the *fill in your list here*, till I was on the flight and we were ready for take off. Here are my 2 cents to help at the beginning of your journey. Indulge yourself at the pre-departure orientation with all of the scholarly energy in the room. Ask all the questions you can think of and be curious!   ONE: Pack some nice clothes. I know you are trying to be minimalist and realistic at the same time, but a few pieces won’t harm anyone. I ended up buying some formal clothes when I got there for various spontaneous occasions, which is another way to go. At the Fulbright pre-departure orientation, I remember someone suggested bringing perfume or cologne. I...

The HIV Organ Policy Equity Act: Spreading HOPE

I pushed down on the edge of the worn fabric of the auditorium seat and felt the metal frame push back on my fingertips. The white foam of the cushion peeked through the red threads of the dusty seat. Scanning across the auditorium, my eyes took note of the press personnel and cameras pointed towards the stage. I sat in awe during the live media briefing where my mentors announced that the first HIV-to-HIV liver transplant in the world was just successfully performed at our transplant center. “In 2008, Dr. Elmi Muller was the first surgeon in the world to perform HIV positive-to-HIV positive deceased donor kidney transplantation.” In 2008, Dr. Elmi Muller was the first surgeon in the world to perform HIV positive-to-HIV positive (HIV-to-HIV) deceased donor kidney transplantation. Recognizing the tremendous impact this could have in the US, my research group (Epidemiology Research Group in Organ Transplantation, ERGOT) wrote the landmark HIV Organ Policy Equity Act (HOPE Act), which reversed a long outdated ban on HIV-to-HIV organ transplantation, created in the 1980s. ERGOT shepherded the passage of the HOPE Act through Congressional and Presidential approval in November 2013. “Signed into law November 2013 and implemented in November 2015, the HOPE Act opened the door for HIV-positive candidates to receive and donate organs.” Today, HOPE transplants are taking place in the US, UK, and South Africa. For World’s AIDS Day 2018,...

The Media & Medicine Movement

I was honored to be one of this year’s Donate Life Hollywood featured projects for my documentary film, In Absence of Evidence. But what I was even more privileged to be a part of was the media and medicine movement. Many in and outside of medicine enjoy watching medical dramas such as Grey’s Anatomy, Scrubs, and ER, to name a few. But as they continue in their studies as medical professionals, they also begin to realize how inaccurate the shows can be. Donate Life Hollywood (DLH) is a national campaign serving as a liaison between the organ, eye, and tissue donation community and the entertainment industry. Their goal is to help Hollywood write authentic and positive donation and transplant storylines by simplifying access to expert consultation, spotlighting dramatic stories, and featuring medical breakthroughs in an accurate way. “Research shows that when television shows perpetuate myths about donation, they cost lives.” Research shows that when television shows perpetuate myths about donation, they cost lives. During its original tenure, Donate Life Hollywood built a partnership that led to a 6 percent increase in the public’s willingness to register as donors, the largest single-year increase the Donate Life community has ever seen. “An alliance between journalists and scientists should be about celebrating the creativity of the human mind. It should be about fostering critical thinking and valuing vetted knowledge.” A recent and...

A Vignette from Haiti

I am a huge proponent of hands-on experiences, activities outside of the classroom, and pursuing your hobbies. I spent a month providing health care in the villages of Gros Morne and Miragoane two years after the devastating earthquake in Haiti. During my time there, I screened children in schools and villages that hadn’t seen health care in years. Seeing the public health issues in a developing country first hand was a life changing experience; one that cannot be matched by merely reading or watching the news. The houses and buildings that once stood were mere piles of rubble on the side of the street. The children I saw suffered from a wide range of disease – everything from crush injuries to ringworm. Children roamed the streets with no shoes and no pants, and just a ripped shirt on their backs. We were able to see and treat close to 400 children a day suffering from common conditions: scabies, ringworm, and malnutrition, to name a few. During the day, I had the chance to interact with children patiently lined up in the clinic waiting to be screened. While I cleaned wounds or gave medication they would teach me Creole. I spent my days repeating “un grenn pa jou” as I provided the packet of medications they would take home with them. “Un grenn pa jou” At night I was welcomed...

The Role of Social Support in Medicine

I sat attentively at the renal replacement meetings in South Africa where difficult decisions were made weekly. I quietly waited, pen and paper on my lap, as the social worker, dietician, nephrologists, nurses, residents, and fellows filed in to get a seat in the conference room.   Over the last five years, I have spent my postgraduate training exploring ways to increase access to and equity in organ transplantation. I, therefore, sat bewildered as I witnessed patients being denied access due to a lack of social support.   At this meeting, the transplant candidates were determined if they would end up on the waiting list. In this particular case, it was decided to deny a medically suitable patient a spot on dialysis. In South Africa, for patients without medical insurance, dialysis is an extremely limited resource. For patients to be accepted for dialysis, they are assessed both from a medical and social point of view. They need to be deemed good transplant candidates; be medically well, have good social support to ensure that they will come for their post-operative appointments, and adhere to the medicine regimen so as to not reject their newly transplanted kidney.   The medically suitable patient presented during the meeting was denied because they did not meet the social criteria. However unfortunate, this approach is employed to ensure that not only are patients given the...

Page 1 of 3123