GSIF Post #7 Rohan Ekambaram

There are many assumptions that our research group has to make when designing our final product. We have to assume that people will trust our product when it enters the market. Some people might look at the results from the test strip and dismiss them because they believe the strip is wrong. We also assume that people will want to learn about UTI’s once we start up the educational programs in country. We have to assume that people will want to buy more boxes or encourage their Community Health Clinic to buy some after the classes. We also have to assume that the Community Health Workers will continue to use the skills we taught them after we leave the country. It is extremely hard to have someone check when the clinics are spread out so much, but we have one employee who will be training all the CHW’s so he has some checks on them. Another assumption that we have is that the marketing license will be acquired. That is an integral part of our project especially for when we are in country. Without that we would not be able to do the advertising that is necessary for this project. We also have to assume that people will want to buy our product when we put it into circulation. There is a stigma against people with UTI’s and that might be so engrained with some people that we cannot change that. We also have to assume that our marketing strategy will work. We have put a lot of effort into planning it but we will only know for sure when we get in country. We also have to assume that customs will not have any problems with our packages of boxes. There are often mixups and confiscations when shipping to a not as well organized system. We also assume that our target consumers have a way to get to the test strips we are providing. We might be missing more people that are too far away from any CHC’s. We also have to assume that the quality control system that will be in place will survive the shipping to farther out CHW’s. This is something that we have to make sure of that when we are in Sierra Leone.

There are a couple things that we need to test when we get in country. We need to test whether or not the system of quality control for the bottles work in country and that it is easy to read.¬†We are also designing a radio program to broadcast information about UTI’s and we have to make sure that the people who are listening are the ones who need that information the most. The second assumption that goes along with this point is that we need people to respond to the program and feel knowledgable enough to recognize the symptoms of a UTI. We designed the radio program to do this but we will only know for sure once we test it. We also need to test that our system of employees is working out for the better of the project. If there needs to be some changes, we can make those when we are in Sierra Leone. With that we also need to make sure that we have enough employees. The system might work, but without enough people on staff it could still fail. We have to also test the viability of our shipping methods while we are in country and make sure that it can handle the load of test strips. We have one person on a bike which we have had work in the past but we have to be absolutely certain. We also have to test the effectiveness of the training procedure that we are making for the CHW’s. It might have all the proper information, but we have to present it in a way that is understandable. We have to also test the record keeping system we have in place, since we are revamping it a little bit. We need to test the effectiveness of our payment plans as well to make sure the employees respond the way we hope. Finally, we need to test the effectiveness of our strips and how accessible they are to people.

I feel as though I present a different perspective than most while I am with my research group. I was fortunate enough to travel a good amount before college when I would visit family in India or earn trips to Europe by playing with different ensembles. I feel as though I have a much more diverse point of view than most and I try to bring those ideas into the work we do. The way I have begun to view myself has changed over the course of this project. I used to believe that my strength was in leading, but once you realize that there are other people who are more knowledgeable about a subject you have to learn to take a step back.

GSIF Blog Post #6 Rohan Ekambaram

I believe that overall, the presentation that my group gave to the judges had a lot of strong qualities, but as always there is room for improvement. One of the comments that most of the students and judges had for my group involved the fact that the people who answered questions were the same for every question. They thought that our group should have spread out who answered the questions to show the validity of the groups’s work. This is a valid comment on our group and we will work to improve this but it was also a conscious decision by the group to have these specific people answer the questions. The group members who answered the questions were long time members and had a lot more experience than the newer members both in the lab and in Sierra Leone. We decided it would be better for them to answer the questions because they have a much larger scope of the issues. Personally, I could improve my presentation skills a lot. I did not make as much eye contact with the crowd as I should have. I looked down a little too much and that took away from the message we were presenting. I also stuttered a little bit during my part of the presentation. This could have been solved by a simple flashcard or just putting in more time on practicing the exact words I would be saying. Another problem we had with our presentation was the lack of cultural information about the people of Sierra Leone. This is a much harder issue to tackle because it is such an enormous topic, it would take a lot of time to fully explain. My responses personally were not very strong. I did not answer any questions in the question portion of the presentation. I will personally have to work on this in order to increase my confidence in my knowledge of the information to answer questions. I also could have talked about the quality control portion of the presentation since that is the part of the project I am working on. I think we also could have improved our responses by having more specific numbers memorized. We also could have used the backup slides in our presentation more. There were some questions that would have been explained but we just answered the question instead. Another comment that some of the students had was that I did move around enough and that I stood still. This is just another problem that can be solved with confidence in the information. The problem I saw in our presentation that not many people commented on was the transitions for the slides. We had a clicker but no one really used it, and I think that is a simple problem to fix, but still is a noticeable problem.

The work that we will be performing in Sierra Leone will require IRB approval since we are working with human subjects. Although the work we are doing is noninvasive and has minimal risk for those involved we still need to gain approval for our work since we are trying to create a widely used screening device. Most of our approval has already been laid out since the project my team has been working on has been going on for a long time. The problems that might arise are something that needs to be lookinOne of the tougher things that we will have to deal with when it comes to IRB approval is the identifiable information. One of the harder things will be to track the progress of individuals since the identification process will be much harder without out formal identification. Private information will also pose a problem because there is a lack of privacy in a lot of the health care centers in Sierra Leone. There were stories told by the veterans of the project that some of the health care workers would often talk about a patients symptoms and problems out in open in the middle of the community health centers. Informed consent might also be a problem without a translator since there might be a large language barrier between us and the people who live in the more rural areas where english is spoken much less often.

The logic model of our project is very simple. We develop test strips that are easy to read, accessible to all, and cheap to buy. Afterwards, we have to develop quality control to make sure that each bottle stays viable. Then we have to solve the last mile distribution problem. The final indicator of whether or not our test strip has entered the market and is there to stay is a lowering of maternal death rate. This is a statistic that has to be measured over ten years in order to make sure the study is viable. The short term goal is to raise the number of diagnosis and treatments.