Student: Aradhana Thapa
Program: Master of Public Health (Global Health)
Fellowship: Global Opportunities (GO) Health
Project Title: Repeat abortion and use of contraception among post-abortion women in Nepal – A prospective cohort study
Location: Pokhara, Nepal
Tell us about your project and where you were located.
I did my thesis study in Nepal, my home country, on repeat abortion and use of contraception among post-abortion women, under the mentorship of Annette Fitzpatrick and Emily Godfrey from the UW School of Public Health. We recruited women from abortion clinics - public, private and NGO service providers - in Pokhara city of Nepal to conduct the prospective cohort study to learn about contraception use after abortion and repeat abortion in the city.
Did you gain a new perspective from your fellowship? How so?
Before coming to the UW, I had limited research experience; but, the fellowship project allowed me to build a study from the very conception phase. The fieldwork was challenging and a great learning experience. My adviser in Nepal had health issues for which he had to exit the study requiring me to modify the study to accommodate the changes and complete data collection on a limited time frame. This experience helped me learn to build a team and keep working together. It taught me to manage real life situations around planning and executing data collection, report writing, and presenting my work. I was fortunate to receive GO Health Fellowship to cover my travel, health and accommodation expenses, which was a big burden off my shoulders that allowed me to concentrate solely on the study and learning as much as I could. I am grateful to my fabulous thesis committee, the GO Health fellowship sponsors and selection committee, friends and colleagues, and partner organizations and importantly, to the bold women who let us into their lives to try and understand their life experiences; working with them was one of the most amazing aspects of my thesis project.
How has this fieldwork opportunity supported or complimented classroom learning?
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” -Benjamin Franklin
The classroom setting taught me concrete skills that I needed to execute a research study -- statistics, epidemiology, research methodology among others -- and fieldwork gave my classroom learning a context. The fieldwork experience also helped me to develop soft skills that are required in applying epidemiology and statistics in any study: connecting with people, listening, recruiting data enumerators and researchers, training others to conduct sensitive interviews, collaborating on work in a team and working with faculty members and professionals from Nepal. In a way the classroom setting taught me about management while the fieldwork enabled me to manage.
How do you think the fellowship experience will impact your future work or career?
Every experience grows in us and enables us to develop our skill sets, both hard and soft skills. For example I used Stata to analyze data in the study, which I can state in my work portfolio. Also, I worked, successfully, with a team of professionals to learn about the sensitive issue of contraception use after abortion with women from Nepal.
This experience continues to help me develop my focus, determination, discipline, and diligence, which is valuable in my personal and professional life.
What advice do you have for students interested in fieldwork abroad?
Fellowship grants available in the Department of Global Health are excellent opportunities for many reasons; please prepare well ahead and apply. Fieldwork abroad is a personal experience; in that sense, every person’s experience is unique. I hope the department increases the number of fellowship recipients so more and more students can benefit from opportunities to do fieldwork abroad. I wish all students the very best and my advice before going abroad is to remain curious and open, to listen, observe, learn, and share.
What were your main research findings?
The study revealed that only half of the post-abortion women use effective contraception after abortion and there is a high prevalence of repeat abortion. The main factors positively influencing a use of post-abortion contraception were presence of the woman’s husband in the country and choice of temporary contraceptive methods while the main risk factors identified for repeat abortion were age and age at first pregnancy. Also, better educated women were less likely to adopt effective contraceptive measure after abortion.