International Health Senior to Design Research Project in Brazil

JULY 7, 2014 – Heather Zaccaro (NHS’15), an international health senior, will spend the fall semester interning at the Osvaldo Cruz Foundation (also known as Fiocruz), a prominent public health institution in Brazil.

Zaccaro will travel to Rio de Janeiro as part of the Department of International Health’s practical experience abroad program. As part of the program, she will design her own research project under the scientific mentorship of foundation experts.

Zaccaro says she is excited to be exposed to different research topics, and she looks forward to conducting one-on-one interviews with the center’s patients.

“I want to understand how socioeconomic disparities impact people’s lifestyles and health-related behaviors,” she says.  “Firsthand research is crucial to identifying the ways in which the overall quality of life and health status of Rio’s poorest residents can be improved.”

‘The Perfect Setting’

“Rio de Janeiro is a fascinating city, but it also suffers from extreme inequality,” says Zaccaro. “The proximity of the fabulously wealthy to the dramatically underprivileged presents a unique set of challenges, which makes Rio the perfect setting to hone my skills as a researcher.”

She hopes that this experience will help her better understand how to integrate her future career as a researcher with health promotion and the reduction of inequality.

Zaccaro completed her junior year community organization internship at Nueva Vida, a nonprofit that provides patient navigation and peer support to the Hispanic women struggling with cancer. Working as a research assistant, she was able to immerse herself into the alarming health disparities affecting this group in the United States.

Aspiring Epidemiologist

Since her sophomore year of high school, Zaccaro had known she wanted to become an epidemiologist. The major at Georgetown and specifically the research she has done with the professors have allowed her to further solidify this goal.

“I really appreciate how the tight-knit atmosphere of the NHS facilitates valuable student-teacher relationships and research partnerships,” says Zaccaro. “Public health is such a broad and diverse field, and the variety of courses offered in the International Health Program really gives us a sense of all the opportunities that are out there.”

After graduating from Georgetown, she is looking to pursue a master’s degree in urban sociology in London and then return to the United States for a PhD in epidemiology.

By Masha Mikey (S’15)