Yesterday after flying back home from Dallas, I felt an immediate sense of sadness. Aside from the warmer weather and no snow on the ground, it was a great week in Texas and I will definitely miss it. While we were in Texas, residents were asking us why we were there. Even after explaining why we were there, many people still didn’t understand why we would spend our spring break doing research for fun… let alone in south Texas. During the week in the midst of all of the busyness, spending many late nights working on data entry and literature reviews, I started to wonder the same thing. I wondered if we were even making a difference in the community. However, all pessimistic feelings subsided as we finished up our work for the week.
We collected over 280 surveys, which is over two times the amount that our research team expected to receive! If we had any impact at all, it was increasing awareness in the community about low cost speech-language services for children in need. Edward Everett Hale once said, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” Even if we could not change the world in one week, I am happy with this small impact.
At the end of the trip, all four student groups presented their research experiences from the week. I couldn’t help but feel proud of my colleagues for their diverse skills, perseverance, and passion that made for a great team, leaving an immeasurable impression on the Rio Grande Valley community. I will now leave you with three things that I have learned from this experience that I will take on my path to becoming a public health professional.
- Cultural competence: working in a community with individuals of different backgrounds and cultural values is an important part of understanding public health on a local level.
- Teamwork: working on a team with members of different strengths and skills makes it easier to get the job done.
- Learning through community members: it is always through the most unexpected sources such as people on the plane and strangers in the grocery store that you learn the most about a community’s strengths and weaknesses.