Working on cancer prevention in India

alneciarumphs_featuredThis article is part of our Summer Sojourns 2012 series highlighting summer adventures of FIU students.

This summer, doctoral candidate Alnecia Rumphs traveled to India, where she worked  to save the lives of women, thousands of whom die annually from cervical cancer. The disease, which is treatable if caught early enough, remains the leading cancer killer among women in India, with approximately 33,000 deaths annually.

Rumphs worked at the Public Health Research Institute of India (PHRII) in Mysore, Karnataka. PHRII is an independent non-governmental organization with a mission to “build capacity for research and evidence-based care that improves the health of women and children in India.” The organization fosters and promotes excellence in both basic and translational research in women’s health issues in India including needs assessment, technology evaluation, modeling of health systems, and measurement and evaluation of health programs. PHRII provides a platform for collaborative research, research mentoring, and research training in public health disciplines and serves as a resource to policymakers.

At PHRII she evaluated the workflow and documentation for the Prerana Cervical Cancer Screening Program, helped analyze epidemiologic data, and offered insights into how the program might be made more efficient and effective. She interviewed the staff and key stakeholders and analyzed data on implementation on PHRII’s previous cervical cancer medical camps and training sessions. She attended a large community cervical cancer screening in central Mysore City in collaboration with the Mysore branch of Rotary International. She will analyze the event from an operations perspective and perform data analysis for her project. Her report on the results of the screening program will be used for funding opportunities to help sustain the effort.

“India is a challenging place to work, but I’m very excited about the opportunities I had to make a meaningful contribution to such an important effort concerning women’s health in a developing nation,” says Rumph. “My work at PHRII has introduced me to the public health challenges in India and made me realize how much I’ve taken for granted living in the United States. I appreciate that I was able to contribute to the health of communities abroad while completing my own education at FIU.”

Rumphs worked in India under the mentorship of Purnima Madhivanan, an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work.

When she wasn’t on the job, Rumph made good use of what little free time she had.

“This was my first trip abroad,” she says, “so I took every opportunity to get out and see Mysore, a historic city that’s been part of several kingdoms.”

Rumphs has taken an interest in cancer research since her days at the University of South Florida. She was active in two undergraduate thesis projects there as part of the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Scholars Program and in the Honors College. After graduating in 2007 she was involved in a population-based breast cancer study at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute. Although she originally began her studies in the biomedical sciences, her passion to meet the challenges of improving the public’s health has compelled her to continue her graduate education in the field of epidemiology at the Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work at FIU. She is a Florida Education Fund McKnight Doctoral Fellowship recipient. As a future epidemiologist, she is looking forward to “working with communities to promote health through innovative research, education and training.”


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