Q&A with Former Global Health Institute Student Fellow Shreya Arora
In this interview with Shreya Arora (H’24), a spring 2022 Global Health Institute (GHI) student fellow and undergraduate student majoring in global health, Arora shares her current research projects and experience working with Georgetown Project RISHI (Rural India Social and Health Improvement) in rural Rajasthan, India.
Can you tell us about what you are currently working on?
In August 2023 I moved to Tanga, Tanzania, for my senior year experiential global health course. I am working at the National Institute for Medical Research, specifically conducting independent research on the burden of malaria in rural northeastern Tanzania.
Following your GHI fellowship, was there a particular field that you wanted to explore?
Following my GHI fellowship, I completed an internship at the UN Foundation (FP2030), where I worked on projects focused on situating family planning at the crossroads of the global health, development, and gender equality agendas. I had the opportunity to assist the FP2030 executive, high impact practice (HIPs), communications, and data management teams.
Working at the crossroads of global health and development is something that drove you to co-found Project RISHI at Georgetown. Could you tell us more about how the project began?
I founded the Project RISHI chapter at Georgetown in 2020 because I was very interested in blending my passion for global health with my Indian heritage. I considered Georgetown to be the perfect place for the chapter due to the university’s focus on public health and social justice. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I actively searched for students who were interested in the intersection between global health and development in India to launch the project.
Has the scope of Project RISHI changed since its foundation in 2020?
We started the project focusing on one specific area and working with one local NGO, GSVS. Now, we are working on a new project alongside the social enterprise Lucky Iron Fish that aims to help improve women's anemia levels through the development of educational workshops and the distribution of an iron-releasing cooking tool called the Lucky Shakti Leaf. While the project’s focus has changed, the trust and relationship-building with our NGO partners, as well as our co-creation process with our partners, hasn’t changed.
As part of your initial project with EcoFemme in Tamil Nadu, you conducted extensive background research on women’s menstrual health. What were some of your key findings?
Between July and November 2021, in partnership with EcoFemme, we launched a pilot program in two villages in rural Ajmer, Rajasthan, with 30 female participants. Through our research, we found that there was a significantly low stock of disposable sanitary products, issues with the quality of disposable pads, and a general lack of knowledge about menstrual health and hygiene given the stigma associated with menstruation in rural Ajmer.
As a GHI student fellow, you worked with Dr. Samson Haumba, assistant professor of medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center, to advance his research project. Did the fellowship experience impact your work on Project RISHI?
I collaborated with Dr. Samson Haumba to conduct a systematic review of the sociodemographic factors and outcomes associated with individuals with advanced HIV disease in Sub-Saharan Africa, and I also assisted in a study on factors associated with vertical transmission of HIV among pregnant and lactating women in Eswatini. I believe my work as a GHI fellow helped me learn how to collaborate with people with diverse cultural perspectives and communicate with teams abroad with different time zones and ways of working, which has truly helped with my work on Project RISHI.
Over summer 2023 you traveled to Rajasthan to work on the Lucky Shakti Leaf project and meet with on-the-ground partners. What is your key takeaway from that experience?
The trip allowed us to listen directly to our participants and hear their feedback on the different sustainable products. They felt very comfortable talking to us and expressing their concerns and needs, which was very helpful. Overall, the experience gave valuable insight into the progress of our two main projects and opened our eyes to new opportunities to work with the community to develop additional sustainable solutions in the future.
What new developments are in store for the project?
After the completion of a successful pilot program in collaboration with Lucky Shakti Leaf to combat anemia in 2022, in the coming weeks we will be officially launching our expanded program with 100 women. Part two of our pilot in collaboration with GSVS will include educational workshops, cooking tutorials, and health camps with local doctors. Our partner EcoFemme will also engage in this new initiative as there is a relationship between iron-deficiency anemia and menstrual cycles. Additionally, we will continue working on our kitchen garden project, which allows us to cultivate nutritious vegetables that can help balance participants’ diets to reduce iron deficiency.