Harvard College Class of 2012
Rumbi Mushavi is a junior at Harvard College and a native of Zimbabwe. She was a Harvard Institute for Global Health (HIGH) International Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (I-SURF) participant in Uganda during the summer of 2010 and is actively engaged in global health activities at the University.
The I-SURF program in Uganda gives students mentored scientific and academic research projects in a rural and resource-limited setting. Students complete independent projects alongside Harvard faculty and in-country mentors. In Uganda, students work with researchers at the Mbarara University of Science and Technology.
During the summer of 2010, Mushavi worked on a study of early mortality in patients initiating antiretroviral treatment for HIV as part of a 10-week global health research experience. She was mentored by Dr. Conrad Muzoora (Head of Medicine, Mbarara University) and Professor David Bangsberg (Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School).
“I know it sounds a bit corny, but this experience was totally life-changing for me,” says Mushavi.. “I had taken courses, gone through the motions, answered the funding questions — but to be there and to see the conditions for the patients and the doctors was shocking.”
Mushavi says the experience inspired her to come back to Harvard and, through the African Students Association, work on sorting out ways in which undergraduate students, like herself, can help to institute some change in the global health field.
“Getting students involved now is important as it gets them to start thinking about solutions to some of today’s biggest problems,” Mushavi says. “Students feel there is little they can do, but to engage them at this level is a way to have an impact later on. A couple of students have already come up with amazing technologies to solve issues of food security.”
As a pre-medical student at Harvard, Mushavi also had the opportunity to gain clinical experience while in Uganda, focusing on ways to reduce early deaths and undercare by early diagnosis of common opportunistic infections. Rotations at the Immune Suppression Syndrome Clinic (the largest HIV/AIDS clinic in Mbarara), hospital pharmacy, and in-patient wards at the regional referral hospital provided her with real-world experience on care and delivery of medical services in resource-limited settings.
She has spent the first few weeks of 2011 with the Clinton Health Initiative in Uganda working on HIV issues, especially in pediatric management. Mushavi is currently working with the AIDS coalition on Harvard campus, hopeful to take some classes this semester on low-cost technologies for intervention in Africa. She has become involved in student activism on the issue of HIV/AIDS policies on campus with the aim of getting more students to reach out to their communities and local and national leaders to address the current issue of donor fatigue when it comes to supporting treatment and prevention programs, especially in resource-limited settings.
“I found these settings where patients don’t even have the option of a blood test, where there is need for doctors and resources — that is where I want to work,” says Mushavi.