News Story

Road Safety Is Focus of Global Health Senior’s Research Practicum in Tanzania

September 26, 2019 – This semester, Elaine Les (NHS’20), a global health major from New Jersey, is in Tanzania for the Department of International Health’s senior-level 12-credit research practicum abroad, an experience through which she is researching road safety. Les says, “Our senior internships abroad . . . provide us with an unmatched opportunity to gain global research experience as undergraduates. And I think that’s pretty awesome.”

Elaine Les (NHS'20) stands in front a building and a tree
Elaine Les (NHS’20)

Question: How did you discover Georgetown?

Les: This story is actually pretty funny, and I must admit a little bit embarrassing. While my mom was in medical school, my parents shared a lot of great memories in Washington, DC.  So throughout my childhood, they loved to take brother and me on long weekend trips to explore the city. When I was about 10-years-old, my parents brought us to Georgetown for dinner. I remember sitting in the back room of Clyde’s and ice cream. As we strolled down M street, I spotted Juicy Couture and dragged my family inside. After some browsing, my mom said, “Did you know there’s a college up the street? It’s an incredible school, and you’d have easy access to Juicy Couture.” I was sold. When it came time to seriously consider colleges and majors, I was fascinated by the global health program. My favorite subjects in school were always science and social studies, so it seemed like a perfect fit. Things really came full circle, and I could not be happier to have ended up here.

Question: What are you working on this semester in Tanzania?

Les: This semester in Tanzania I am really excited to be working on road safety. Specifically, I aim to determine the level of road safety knowledge and associated factors among commercial motorcycle drivers in Tanga, Tanzania. Commercial motorcycles called “boda bodas” are an exceedingly popular method of daily transportation in Tanzania and other East African countries, and they can be extremely dangerous. It is truly terrifying to see infants, children, or multiple passengers without helmets riding on commercial motorcycles as they weave in and out of traffic and groups of pedestrians. Ultimately, I hope that my study can help identify gaps in road safety knowledge and assist in the scaling up of commercial motorcycle driver training.

Elaine Les (NHS'20) stands in front of the National Institute for Medical Research sign in Tanzania.
Elaine Les (NHS’20) at the National Institute for Medical Research in Tanzania

Georgetown and the global health major?

I feel so lucky to be a part of the NHS and global health major. It’s awesome to be surrounded by such passionate students and faculty who share interests similar to mine. I find each of my professors to be very inspiring and think it’s so cool that I get to learn based on the experiences of the most accomplished in the field. Some of my favorite classes so far have been “Maternal and Child Health,” “Global Mental Health,” and “Epidemiology.” I’ve been fortunate enough to put the skills I’ve learned into practice and work on a qualitative study with Dr. Jennifer Z.H. Bouey about PrEP knowledge and HIV testing among vulnerable populations. Our senior internships abroad also provide us with an unmatched opportunity to gain global research experience as undergraduates. And I think that’s pretty awesome.

Question: Tell us a little bit about your time at Georgetown, including your activities.

Les: I’ve really enjoyed being a part of the NHS Academic Council for the past three years. I love planning events, so it has been exciting to be behind the scenes of NHS favorites such as Fall Ball, the fall and spring BBQ, and Senior Wine and Cheese. During my freshman and sophomore year, I served as Hall Council president for Harbin Hall and Henle Village and had a lot of fun getting to know my fellow Hoyas through different residence hall programs and events. I also work as an intramural referee for Yates Field House and have a blast playing intramural sports.  

Question: What are you thinking about after Georgetown?

Les: During my time at Georgetown, I’ve cultivated a lot of different interests, so I’ve thought about a lot of different plans for after graduation. I do know that I would like to continue my education, so right now I’m wrestling with the decision of heading right to graduate school or first gaining some professional experience in the field. Fields I’ve been considering include public health, education, and research. I also really enjoyed my internship this past summer at a DC-based non-profit that works to prevent childhood injury, so I definitely could see myself pursuing opportunities in that realm as well.