After ~3 weeks of living in Gondar, Elizabeth and I have had the opportunity to reflect on our work thus far. I am truly impressed by the Gondar study coordinators and the wonderful SCOPE work culture. The anecdotes below provide a brief depiction of my work experience thus far.
A ‘Typical’ Day
Every Monday-Friday, Elizabeth and I go to Getahun’s office at the University of Gondar to conduct our work. His office is located adjacent to the University Hospital and is about a ~30 minute walk or a ~7 minute Bajaj drive from our guesthouse. I really enjoy the walk in the mornings – a great way to get a bit of exercise and see Gondar!
Getahun, Elizabeth, and I all work together at the same office desk. It is a large desk, so there is plenty of room for all of us to work comfortably. Without wireless network, each of us connects to the Internet via Ethernet cords. We work independently, but are all very accepting of interruptions for questions, clarifications, conversations, etc. Although Adino has a separate office in another building, he is often present in Getahun’s office for team meetings and discussions.
The electricity and Internet will go out occasionally, but the building very promptly turns on the generator and you can expect both to come back soon. There’s something to appreciate about electricity cuts – they cause everyone to turn their eyeballs away from their computer and engage in conversation.
At around 12:30p, everyone disperses for lunch. The University campus is normally bustling with students, many of which you can tell are medical students with their white coats and notebooks in hand. Elizabeth and I have discovered a café nearby called ‘Three Sisters’ that we often go to for lunch. It is a cute café about ~3 minute walk away that serves traditional Ethiopian food. The staff are incredibly friendly and we enjoy the ambiance.
After lunch, we all return to the office and resume our work. When the workday concludes, Elizabeth and I almost always walk home together (unless there is a thunderstorm).
Monday Skype Calls
Every Monday at 5p we have a Skype call with the Seattle SCOPE study team. The Seattle team is always promptly online at 7a Seattle-time ready to discuss this week’s agenda, answer questions, provide feedback, collaborate on study decisions, and simply catch up with us.
I look forward to our weekly Skype calls. It provides an opportunity for the entire team – Seattle and Gondar – to share ideas and ensure everyone is on the same page with the progress of the FLAME study. Moreover, I enjoy witnessing the seamless communication between study teams. It is apparent the amount of respect and appreciation each member has for the rest of the team – all members are welcome, opinions are valued, and hierarchy is diminished. There is an obvious foundation of friendship, and the tone of the conversation is professional, yet jovial at the same time.
The three Skype calls I’ve attended have all been about an hour in length and the time seems to fly by! They are productive conversations, with action points and deliverables established for members of both study teams. Elizabeth and I walked away from this week’s call expressing our fondness for the weekly check-in and our gratitude to be a part of such a well-coordinated and communicative team.
Getahun’s Teaching Style
I am continuously impressed by Getahun’s communication and teaching style. He is a very smart, accomplished professional and treats his colleagues with the same amount of respect that he deserves. He is an approachable leader, always willing to answer questions and teach you. I think the following anecdote exemplifies this character.
Prior to Elizabeth and my arrival, the SCOPE team created surveys that will be used for data collection in the field using software called ODK. Elizabeth and I expressed interest in learning the ‘backend’ of ODK and how to create surveys. As public health students, proficiency in ODK is a valuable skill for us to obtain and we were eager to learn. Getahun didn’t hesitate to take time out of his day to provide Elizabeth and I with a comprehensive ODK tutorial. Not only did he provide us with an overview of ODK, but he also offered for each of us to create our own sample survey and walk us through the steps from survey creation to data collection and result acquirement. Getahun is a natural teacher – very thorough, responsive, and approachable. He truly embodies the philosophy that ‘there is no stupid question,’ always willing to address inquiries and provide constructive feedback.