The works

Interviewing Native Americans about health

Who? Simone Uijttewaal, Communication, Health and Life Sciences Master’s studentWhat? Internship at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount SinaiWhere? New York
Femke Janssen

‘I set up my own research study at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, a teaching hospital in New York. The department I was in does research on public health and environmental medicine, but it also provides information to members of the public who have questions about health. However they don’t yet reach that many people and those they do are mainly the well-educated. That’s why they want to try and reach other target groups too.

I contacted Native Americans in various reservations. Those reservations have their own governments and their own health programmes. I wanted to interview residents to find out what information they needed about health. I presented my results at the end, so I hope there will be more contact from now on between the hospital and the reservations.

I lived in Webster Apartments, a huge complex that houses 300 young women. It was built at the end of the 19th century, before there was safe housing for single working women in New York. It’s all a lot safer now, but the place is still women only. No men are allowed in the rooms either, which was quite funny. I had my own room and a communal shower. Meals were cooked every morning and evening for everyone in the building, so we ate together and I got to know a lot of people that way. Everyone comes to New York for a different reason. Their stories were very diverse, which made them interesting.

In the first few weeks, I also helped write an article on climate change. That area of research is suffering from Donald Trump’s policy. There’s much less funding available as a result and people were talking about that every day. I went with my supervisor to a talk by the chair of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. I was even introduced to her. That surprised me as I was only an intern.

Afterwards, my supervisor came to the Netherlands and visited me at my home. I’d never expected I would get on so well with my supervisor.’

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