Lycia Tramujas Vasconcellos Neumann is an international second-year PhD student in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences. While living in her home in Brazil, Lycia realized the importance of pursuing her PhD internationally in order to expose herself to a different way of thinking. Her intention has always been to take the skills she learns while at the University of Pittsburgh back to Brazil, where she has over 20 years of experience working in social development.
As a 2017 Center for Global Health Student Travel Scholarship recipient, Lycia travelled to Brazil in late summer of 2017 to pursue her proposed project, The profile and unmet needs of cancer patients’ family caregivers in Brazil. For her project, Lycia developed a relationship with the Brazilian non-profit, Instituto Oncoguia, which leads the fight against cancer through advocacy, education, awareness, and support. Lycia planned to work with Instituto Ocoguia to collect and analyze the unmet needs of cancer patients’ family caregivers and use the information she collected during her time in Brazil as her pilot data for her dissertation.
In San Paulo, Brazil, Lycia was able to talk face-to-face with her contacts at Instituto Oncognia. Although Skype had allowed her to work closely with her contacts, being on-site in Brazil allowed Lycia to get excited about her project and explore it with colleagues in a way that Skype would not allow. In addition to her project, Lycia also had the opportunity present to the senior staff at the Municipal Health Department in Curitaba to share about her work and experiences at the University of Pittsburgh during a two-hour meeting. Had it not been for the Center for Global Health Travel Scholarship, Lycia would not have been able to have this impromptu networking experience.
Lycia was able to make time for her family while in Brazil. She talked with her family about how to be better caregivers to her and her siblings’ aging father, directly applying the new information and perspectives she’s gained while being at the University of Pittsburgh for two years.
Although Lycia will not be using the data as she originally planned, her experience with the scholarship taught her important lessons about working in global health. “You need to have a structured plan,” says Lycia, reflecting on her experience. “A structured plan helps you to be more focused while in country for a specific timeframe.” Lycia learned that no matter how much of a plan you have, you should not think everything you do will be correct. “Go with a good plan and a contact. Don’t wait to develop your project until you get there,” Lycia advices. “Listen to the locals. Be prepared to have frustrations with cultural differences and use those differences to help you grow.