Nominated From: University of Michigan
Research Site: Ghana
Research Area: Neonatal and Maternal Knowledge
Primary Mentor: Pamela Martey
Neonatal Jaundice in Ghana: Identifying Contributing Factors Through a Mixed-Methods Study
Our study aimed to assess the relative burden of neonatal jaundice as well as risk factors for neonatal jaundice among infants presenting to the Mother-Baby Unit at a secondary government hospital in Kumasi, Ghana. The study had three major components: (1) a retrospective chart review to establish a prevalence rate for neonatal jaundice; (2) a prospective study that aimed to identify sociodemographic and biological risk factors for neonatal jaundice; and (3) a qualitative study assessing maternal knowledge and practices pertaining to infant health.
Neonatal jaundice is an important cause of preventable neurological damage and early death among infants in Africa. Furthermore, morbidity and mortality due to complications from neonatal jaundice are thought to be disproportionately high in Africa compared to more economically advantaged nations. However, little is known about the relative burden of disease as well as contributing factors that underly this disparity. By quantifying the burden of neonatal jaundice and gaining better insight into community-level understanding and practices, we hope to provide a foundation on which to develop future preventative measures and management guidelines to help reduce preventable neonatal morbidity and mortality in Ghana.
Advice for Potential Applicants
Build a strong mentorship team from the get-go. This will make a world of difference as you develop your proposal as well as when you are on the ground. In establishing a mentorship team, recognize that your mentors do not have to all be in the same discipline or field as you. The benefit of having a team of mentors rather than one is that you can use the collective expertise of the group. In short, you may not find all the answers that you need in one person, who may have a narrow focus or experience. It is beneficial (and wise) to turn to different people for different things.
If you are having difficulty identifying potential mentors, start with people whom you know and trust and ask them to help you identify others whom you could potentially contact. Once you begin these conversations, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable or to show that you are uncertain. Some of my best learning occurred as a result of exposing my uncertainties or after instances of stagnancy in my work. I encourage you to reach out to people and to not be afraid of the unknown.