Traveling senior assesses cultural aspects of health care

Popular thought would have it that the sciences and humanities occupy two separate worlds – so much so that our brains occupy two separate regions, using two mutually exclusive skill sets. That is contrary, however, to the work senior Tasmia Naz has done. Merging the methodology of the exacting scientist and the contextually minded anthropologist, Naz has traveled to Borgne, Haiti twice and anticipates returning.

“I think it’s important to recognize that the hard sciences, the social sciences and the humanities aren’t opposing at all but rather complementary,” she said. The English major and biology minor finds she is concerned with the “macroscopic,” through public health, rather than the “microscopic” field of medicine.

“The first time I went to Haiti, I got my feet wet and learned about the different projects that were happening in the community,” she said. “We learned about [Haiti Outreach-Pwoje Espwa’s] agriculture initiatives. They had a pepinye farm where they grew fruits and vegetables and sold them around the community to keep the agricultural economy local.”

That summer, Naz developed the methodology of a researcher through an internship with the SUNY Upstate Medical University in the summer after her junior year. During her time there, she worked in a leukemia lab, learning various techniques including gel electrophoresis.

“I know I always wanted to work with people – I wanted to work in healthcare, but over time I realized that I wanted to focus more on social issues on that macroscopic level rather than that microscopic level,” she said. “That’s kind of what drew me to more of an anthropological way of going about that.”

Naz has traveled to Bangladesh many times throughout her life, as it is where her family is from. She traces her experiences of traveling through the country as formative, as she observed many of the structural barriers that the nation faced. Though her interests are aligned, Naz sees Haiti and Bangladesh, or any other developing nation, as unique.

“I don’t want to compare [Haiti and Bangladesh] and make it seem like they are the same thing because they are developing nations,” she said. “It isn’t like that at all. In terms of the things that people tend to think about developing nations – like problems with living with infrastructure, not having access to clean water – those things are similar and I’ve had experience with that.”

Starting her sophomore year, Naz became involved with Community Health Alliance. This year, she is the international outreach coordinator, focusing on reaching out to the campus on the international opportunities available to students, particularly the spring break trip to Haiti.

“CHA … their values are community, outreach – combining health and education initiatives with the local community,” Naz said. “That was something that really resonated with me. So I got involved my sophomore year. I started out volunteering at the parish outreach center down at the end of Court Street. They provide really inexpensive [or free] healthcare to local residents. I did that over the summer after sophomore year.”

Naz returned to Haiti this year, during spring break, conducting preliminary research for a larger project on community cardiovascular health. After graduation, she hopes to secure funding to study this project further, something she is currently working in a directed study with professor and chair of the anthropology department and the founder of HOPE, Rose-Marie Chierici.