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Women’s History Month: Q&A With Featured Research Trainee Derartu Ahmed
Editor's Note: Our Featured Research Trainee for March, Women's History Month, is Derartu Ahmed. Ahmed is currently a student in the University of Pennsylvania Post-Baccalaureate Research Program (PennPREP) and works in the lab of Elizabeth Lowenthal, MD, MSCE. Ahmed earned her BA in Biology from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisc. In this Q&A, she discusses her research, her experiences at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and her thoughts on Women's History Month.
What does Women's History Month mean to you?
To me, Women's History Month is a global celebration of the vast contributions made by women in various fields including STEM, economics, and politics. In addition to that, I also celebrate the women in my own life who contributed indirectly by working hard to ensure I have a better education, so that I can achieve my dream to move society forward.
What are some research projects you're currently working on?
I am working on manuscripts for two studies. The first is a cohort study conducted at the Botswana-Baylor Children's Clinical Centre of Excellence and nearby primary and secondary schools from 2019 to 2022 in Botswana. We studied the association between depressive symptoms and HIV status in three groups: children living with HIV, children exposed to HIV in utero but not living with HIV, and children not exposed to HIV. We found that children who are not exposed to HIV endorsed more depressive symptoms than children living with HIV, which may be reflective of the fact that more psychosocial support services are available for that population in the study setting.
In the second study, we evaluated the contribution of rotavirus as an etiology of acute gastroenteritis over a 12-month period in children 0 to 5 years of age. This study was conducted in both an in- and outpatient setting in Consuelo, Dominican Republic a decade after rotavirus vaccine introduction. Rotavirus was less common than prior to the introduction of the vaccine. Although vaccination rates overall are high in the Dominican Republic, we found that children who do not have the rotavirus vaccination are more likely to be hospitalized with acute diarrheal illness.
What are some of the most salient training experiences you've had at CHOP thus far?
I found my passion for epidemiology at CHOP. During these eight months, I had the opportunity to collaborate on multiple qualitative and quantitative studies conducted in various global settings in partnership with CHOP. Furthermore, I have met many passionate colleagues who are always willing to share their experiences and expertise. These experiences have inspired me to pursue a doctoral degree in Epidemiology.
Aside from research, what do you consider your biggest accomplishment?
My biggest accomplishments are my ability to see the silver lining in adversity and to pause and remember my roots and my religion. I am lucky to have a strong social support system, and each person around me holds me accountable — either by reminding me to slow down when I am pushing myself too hard or by telling me to pick up the pace when I am not working to my potential. I think that really helps in ensuring I continue to be my best self.
What do you do for fun when you're not in the lab?
In my free time, I like to go for long runs mostly on the Schuylkill Banks trail, cook (mainly Ethiopian dishes), and read books (my recent interest is reading memoirs). A book that I read recently and found inspiring is I Am a Girl From Africa: A Memoir of Empowerment, Community, and Hope by Elizabeth Nyamayaro.