Anusha Raja (SY ’12) Anusha Raja is a senior majoring in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology with a concentration in Neurobiology. Born in Tamil Nadu, India, she currently resides in Ramsey, New Jersey. During her years of study, she has cultivated an interest in connecting medical anthropology and global health. Currently, as a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, Anusha is conducting an independent medical anthropology research project South India. In the future, she hopes to become a cultural broker in both the academic and health care realms. She aims to understand how to apply medical anthropology research in medical facilities and in public health interventions. After graduating, she hopes to pursue a MD/ PhD in Anthropology with dreams of becoming a physician-anthropologist professor. She enjoys researching in Professor Amy Arnsten’s lab at the Yale Medical School Department of Neurobiology. She is also Head Coordinator of the Asian American Cultural Center (AACC) on campus, Board Member of the Intercultural Affairs Council and Raga Society, and Co-Publisher of the Yale Scientific Magazine. She loves volunteering for the community at the Elder Horizons Program in Yale-New Haven Hospital and at Demos, an elementary school science education program in New Haven.
I was an intern at Sangath, an NGO focused on mental health research in India. Immediately my research group was off to the Karuna Trust, a model primary health center (PHC), where we were conducting the case study. We were trying to understand the integration of mental health programming in the daily routine of the PHC and I was specifically focusing on the health workers’ knowledge and opinions of mental health. We were there for 26 days living in the PHC quarters in Gumballi, a small village in Karnataka next to the gorgeous BR Hills. We observed the clinic and the health workers. We also conducted many interviews with the health workers and those involved at the PHC.
After finishing the stay in the Gumballi primary health center (PHC), I visited the headquarters in Goa for a short period of time during the middle of my internship period. During my three day visit, I met coordinators and staff of the other projects currently in progress. I was able to get an overview of the projects and learn about the working environment in NGOs.
After returning from Goa, I started to analyze the data from the Gumballi PHC using NVivo software. I also learned how to transcribe interviews from the audio recordings. Additionally, I visited other PHCs and the district head office (DHO) in the Gulbarga district to see how the mental health programs function. There, I was also able to observe clinics and conduct interviews with the specialists and non-specialists. This initial visit allowed me to do some preliminary comparisons between Gulbarga district and Chamarajnagar District, where the Gumballi PHC was located.
Lastly, I went to visit a Dargah, a Muslim burial site for saints, in Murga Malla to see a religious site where ill patients come to seek healing. There were many mentally ill patients who had come and stayed at the Dargah, awaiting a dream that provides a cure for their illness. I observed this religious site and also interacted with the coordinators and staff.
During all these visits, I continued to do a systematic literature review of qualitative studies literature review of NSHW-centric qualitative studies in India to arrive at a conclusion about prevalent ideas of NSHWs regarding mentally ill patients and their treatment plans. The review aimed to critically synthesize studies that have researched the attitudes, explanatory models, and treatment plans of NSHWs, while acknowledging the overlaps and the contradiction.
Overall, I had a wonderful time learning about the various types of facilities that are available to patients with mental illness. I also learned crucial qualitative research techniques and observed them in practice. These skills will be useful in the future when I continue to do global health research.