Reflections: My Internship at the University of Global Health Equity

Ntemena Kapula shares her experiences at the UGHE to harness the power of research in healthcare.

Published: 17 September 2021

Witnessing the suffering and frequent deaths of mothers and babies in the early years of my life gave birth to my lifelong dream of becoming a physician and person-centered maternity care advocate. In fact, my arrival into the world was part of this story. Due to several obstetric complications, I was born prematurely in Chingola, Zambia: a medically underserved mining town bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo. Given the limited resources, I was very fortunate to have survived and decided to dedicate my life to medically serving and advocating for marginalized women by fighting against healthcare inequities through research and evidence-based practice of medicine. 

This passion to serve led me to attend institutions like the African Leadership Academy (ALA), a pre-college program in South Africa that aims to build the next generation of African leaders in various sectors. At ALA, I grew my passion to improve the quality of life for African people, my people. Through internships coordinated by the ALA Careers Network, I built research and interpersonal skills to work with the most marginalized women from female sex workers in Zambia, to battered women in US state protection and women in remote communities on the African continent. 

So far, every career decision has been intentional and in line with my passion. After ALA, I pursued a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with clusters in public health and American Sign Language at the University of Rochester with the goal to apply mathematical principles in research analysis and quantifying problems and solutions. Currently, I am pursuing a Master’s degree in Advanced Studies (MAS) in clinical and epidemiological research at the University of California, San Francisco, focusing my thesis work on the role of socioeconomic factors and maternal perceptions of need, access, and quality of care in facility based childbirth in rural Kenya. This work will highlight the social factors that are most important to women during childbirth and will guide decisions made by my NGO called the Maternal Assistance Project Zambia (MAPZ) that I founded in 2020, aided by the Clinton Foundation, to materially support Zambian women during pregnancy and childbirth while advocating for maternal health equity. 

In the summer after my first year of the master’s degree, ALA through the ALHealth sector connected me with the University of Global Health Equity (UGHE) where I have the honor to work with Dr. Zahirah McNatt in the UGHE Community Health and Social Medicine department on various projects including the development of a mixed-methods research proposal for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to identify the root causes for the rise in adolescent pregnancies in Kiziba refugee camp in western Rwanda. My internship with UGHE is only the beginning of a long-term partnership to carry out research on the African continent to address health disparities that negatively impact the health of African people. Given my passion to medically serve the marginalized, it is my hope to continue to work with ALHealth and UGHE to harness the power that research has to give voice to the lived experiences of women who so often have their needs ignored and their experiences discounted. 

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