As this is my first time writing here, I thought I would start by introducing myself and giving you a few key details to help you understand a bit more of the “how” and “why” I find myself here, just starting my PULSE Volunteering journey in Cambodia. Don’t worry, I will try to be as concise as possible. (So, sit down, take a coffee and enjoy the read.)
Well, I could say that I never thought of becoming a nurse before I started my Nursing degree. Perhaps because up to that point I had a limited idea about the “white-clothes-and-hospital-professional” a nurse could be, and definitely I did not think it suited me. However, one day I realized that as a nurse I could also work outside of a hospital, in fields such as disease prevention and health promotion, at both individual and populational levels. Then I discovered the amazing world of Public Health and realized that by working in this area I could affect the health and wellbeing of many people at the same time. So, from that moment on, this goal has been the core focus of my professional life.
Yes, I know that you are aware that I am a pharmaceutical industry employee. Indeed, since 2014 I have been working with GSK Vaccines, as an Epidemiologist Manager in Brazil. As part of the Epidemiology and Health Outcomes regional team, I am supporting our Brazilian and Latin America Medical teams to generate scientific evidence on the burden of imunopreventable diseases on the Brazilian population and measuring the impact and the effectiveness of our vaccines since their introduction into public health programmes.
Before I came to GSK, my previous experience was essentially in the public health sector. For 11 years, I worked at municipality and national levels for the Brazilian government. At the Ministry of Health (MoH) I had the opportunity to study, work and develop my field epidemiologist skills as part of their Field Epidemiology Training Programme (FETP, in Portuguese called EPISUS), run by the MoH and the Center for Disease Control (the CDC in Atlanta, USA). At EPISUS, we were a young team dedicated to supporting the public health of the entire country. We would investigate disease outbreaks that each time would challenge us to understand and explain “how” the disease came to occur among the people, at that time and in that place. Our work was always challenging and we found that we could never do it alone. “Working alone you are badly accompanied,” as our CDC advisor, Douglas Hatch, used to say to us. Through this experience, working as field epidemiologist, I realized that although each one of us might have essential skills, the real key to success was when we were working as a team and bringing these complimentary skills together. It was a wonderful experience and, in many ways, I must confess that I am missing it already.
A few months ago, as if reading my mind, GSK offered me a fantastic opportunity to go back into the field, as all epidemiologists like to do, through the GSK PULSE Volunteer Partnership. As part of the PULSE selection process, my professional and volunteering profile matched with one of GSK’s non-profit organization partners, the Malaria Consortium. The Malaria Consortium were looking for a GSK volunteer to work as a field epidemiologist on their Malaria programme in Cambodia. I could never have imagined that I would find such a perfect match!
As news of my PULSE assignment spread through the Brazilian & Latam Vaccines team, messages of goodwill and support started to flood in from all parts. Indeed, I feel tremendously proud and lucky to be part of this amazing team.
But… did you pay attention to the one detail so far overlooked? My assignment will be in Cambodia! Yes, Southeast Asia! From Brazil, it is almost the other side of the globe! In many ways that may sound like a long way away, but it is still not far enough to make me feel alone. Since the moment my participation in the PULSE programme was confirmed, I started to prepare myself for this exciting new experience that I could not and would not be doing alone. Through many meetings and calls with friends, colleagues and family, all of whom inspire me in different ways, I started to gather all the support that I would need during my PULSE journey. As result, I am bringing with me in my heart all the positive energy, great feelings, thoughts and inspirational messages that I couldn’t imagine I would have received before I embarked on this path. So, now I know, I am not coming alone. Cambodia, open your arms, we are on our way!